Broker's Playbook - Good For Real Estate

BROKER'S PLAYBOOK

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How complaining betters the industry

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One of the greatest complaints around agent circles centres on those sales reps who lack integrity, and the real estate councils’ apparent apathy.
 
We spoke to Bruce Matthews, the deputy registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario about the complaints process, and what agents can do to upkeep the integrity of the profession.
 
“It’s important to remember that a complaint only alleges misconduct,” Matthews tells REP. “When RECO receives a complaint regarding conduct within in its jurisdiction it notifies the registrant that is the subject of the complaint and requests a written response to get their account of what happened. Then, if necessary, RECO will conduct further investigation.”
 
Indeed, real estate councils are nothing if not fair. Matthews says all complaints are different and are handled on a case-by-case basis. The general process, however, is the same.
 
First, the complainant submits a written complaint – the forms for such complaints are found on all council websites. In Ontario, the form is two pages long and, barring the detailed explanation of the issue, takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete.
 
Once RECO receives the complaint, it will open an investigation that involves contacting the accused to obtain his or her side of the story.
 
“As the regulator, it is essential that we be thorough and fair in our complaint handling,” Matthews says.
 
RECO, like many other boards, does not offer a timeline for the process. A thorough investigation with many moving parts is unpredictable, and each complaint is different.
 
“The time required to process a complaint cannot be pre-determined – it depends on the nature of the allegations and the complexity and seriousness of the issue,” Matthews explains. “It takes time to get every account of what happened and do the proper due diligence before reaching a decision.”
 
After the investigation is completed, the council decides on a course of action. In Ontario, there are 10 possible outcomes: no action, consent to conditions, mediation, a written warning, education, a referral to discipline committee, immediate suspension, a registrar’s proposal, a director’s action or provincial offences prosecution.
 

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#pb#“Once the investigation is complete, the Registrar looks over the details and decides on a course of action,” Matthews says. “A new complaint resolution approach we added last year is mediation. In certain cases, it is preferable to resolve a matter by inviting the two parties to mutually come to an agreed-upon resolution.”
 
During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, RECO received 1,528 complaints. Of those, 50.7 per cent concluded with no action – in turn, 3.3 per cent of those were due to the complaint being withdrawn. Another 44.2 per cent of the 1,500 complaints resulted in administrative action, including a written warning, or some combination of a written warning, corrective action, mandatory education courses, and mediation. Only 5.1 per cent of complaints were referred to legal, registration or investigations.
 
“It’s important to note that on the whole registrants do their jobs well,” Matthews says. “These are low numbers when you consider there are close to 70,000 registrants and there were nearly 200,000 homes sold through MLS last year.”
 
If you have an issue with an agent who you believe is not serving the public to the best of their ability, or who is perhaps engaging in shady business practices, Matthews urges you to submit a complaint to your local real estate council.
 
“Anyone – consumer or registrant – who believes that they have not been treated fairly, honestly or with integrity is welcome to submit a complaint to us,” he says. “After all, if we don’t know about the situation, we won’t be able to address it.”
 
 
Do you have an issue with a council’s complaint process? Share your gripe in the comments!