Provincial real estate brokerage regulators: To further protect consumers

PHOTO CREDIT: Breno Assis (Unsplash)

Every day in Canada, hundreds of residential properties are sold through a real estate agent or broker - a term whose meaning varies from province to province. Each transaction has significant financial and human implications for both seller and buyer. Provincial regulators oversee the activities of real estate agents and brokers, ensuring the protection of the public in one of the most important transactions of a lifetime.

In a context of globalization, where the advent of innovative emerging practices is constantly changing the world of real estate brokerage, it is essential that provincial regulators remain agile and share best practices in order to be even more effective.

ARCIC, or the Real Estate Regulatory Authorities of Canada, brings together the 10 provincial regulators and the Yukon regulator. Nadine Lindsay, Vice-President of ARCIC and also President and CEO of the Quebec regulator, OACIQ (Organisme d'autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec), talks to us about ARCIC and the role of a real estate regulator. But she also emphasizes how well real estate regulators worked together during the Covid-19 crisis, to continue ensuring rigorous oversight in these unprecedented times.


An essential role for the public 

The mandate of a real estate regulator may vary from province to province, but as ARCIC's vice-president explains, it essentially consists of supervising real estate agents, brokers and agency managers, so that they all respect their duties and obligations in accordance with the highest standards of competence and ethics, thereby protecting the public.

"Although their role is essential, real estate regulators are more or less well known depending on the province," says Ms. Lindsay, "but this situation is changing." She points out that in Quebec, for example, public awareness of the OACIQ has increased by 157% in two years, according to an annual survey conducted by Scor.

By joining forces, regulators reinforce the mandates entrusted to them by their respective governments, such as :

  • administer and enforce provincial real estate legislation and uphold ethical standards;
  • provide the public with information on the resources and protections available under the law;
  • design and deliver mandatory continuing education activities;
  • investigate complaints against real estate professionals and impose sanctions where necessary; and finally
  • administer a consumer protection fund.


Working together in times of crisis

While they were preparing to meet in June to address a number of topics and discuss common issues related to real estate in Canada, the regulators had to put this meeting on pause and considerably intensify their activities in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.Normally, the fact that regulators exchange and establish guidelines for the supervision of agents and brokers for the protection of the public is of paramount importance. With the pandemic, our role is even more important, because we have to adapt our methods so that they are similar from one province to the next, while ensuring compliance with the health regulations enacted by the various provincial governments."
Nadine Lindsay, Vice-President of ARCIC and President and CEO of OACIQ, not all provinces have banned in-person visits. Nevertheless, all regulators have recommended that agents and brokers use virtual visits.

They have also adopted the same approach to the work of agents and brokers, prioritizing professional acts that can be carried out remotely or using technological tools. The main positions taken by regulators on subjects related to the crisis and its impact on real estate brokerage in Canada can be consulted on the ARCIC website.

It's a colossal task that has been accomplished, and one that will certainly have strengthened exchanges between provinces," says Nadine Lindsay. In Quebec, for example, we developed various tools for brokers and the public, such as online training, digital guides and answers to questions that we published on the various platforms, and we did so under very tight deadlines. Each regulator had to go through the exercise of adapting their interventions to the virtual world as well as to the significant constraints brought about by this health crisis."

In parallel with crisis management, real estate regulators continued to collaborate on a major project that had been initiated prior to the pandemic: the development of a national competency profile for real estate agents, brokers and agency managers, which will facilitate the framing of practices and the development of training programs across Canada. Working groups have been set up, and all are actively involved in ensuring that this project can be completed by 2021.

One thing is certain: ARCIC regulators will have more than one topic to add to the agenda at their next meeting. In the meantime, all remain focused on their mission to protect the public and ensure rigorous oversight of real estate brokerage practices across the country.