Provincial real estate brokerage regulators: To further protect consumers

PHOTO CREDIT: Breno Assis (Unsplash)

In Canada, hundreds of residential homes are sold every day through a real estate agent or broker–a term whose meaning varies from one province to another. Each transaction has significant financial and human implications for both the seller and the buyer. Provincial regulators oversee the activities of real estate agents or brokers to protect the public in one of the most important transactions in a person’s life.

In this globalization era where the advent of emerging and innovative practices is constantly changing the real estate brokerage industry, it is crucial that provincial regulators remain agile and exchange views on best regulatory practices to be even more effective.

Real Estate Regulators of Canada (RERC) is comprised of 10 provincial regulators and Yukon’s regulator. Nadine Lindsay, Vice-President of RERC and President and Chief Executive Officer of Quebec’s regulator, Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (OACIQ), talks to us about RERC and the role of a real estate regulator. She also points out how real estate regulators were able to work together during the COVID-19 crisis to continue providing strict oversight in these unprecedented times.

A key role for the public 

The mandate of a real estate regulator may vary from one province to another but, as explained by RERC’s Vice-President, it essentially consists of supervising real estate agents, brokers and agency executive officers to ensure that they all respect their duties and obligations and uphold the highest standards of competence and ethics to protect the public.

“Although their role is essential, real estate regulators are more or less known depending on the province, says Ms. Lindsay, but this situation is changing.” She states that in Quebec, for instance, the rate of recognition of the OACIQ by the population has increased by 157% in two years, according to an annual survey conducted by Scor.

By coming together, regulators strengthen the mandates entrusted to them by their respective governments, such as:

  • Administering and applying provincial real estate legislation and enforcing ethical standards;
  • Providing the public with information on resources available and legal protections available;
  • Developing and delivering mandatory continuing education courses;
  • Investigating complaints about real estate professionals and imposing sanctions as required; and
  • Administering 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 that we comply with the health regulations laid down by the various provincial governments."
Nadine Lindsay, Vice-President of ARCIC and President and CEO of OACIQ. For example, not all provinces have banned in-person visits. Nevertheless, all regulators have recommended that agents and brokers use virtual visits.

They also adopted the same approach regarding the work of agents and brokers by prioritizing professional acts that can be performed remotely or using technological tools. The regulators’ main positions on topics related to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on real estate brokerage in Canada can be found on the  ARCIC website.

“It was a tremendous amount of work that was accomplished and that will certainly have helped strengthen exchanges between provinces, says Nadine Lindsay. For example, in Quebec, we developed various tools for brokers and the public, such as online training courses, digital guides and answers to asked questions that we published on different platforms within very tight deadlines. Each regulator had to adapt its actions to the virtual world and to the major constraints caused by this health crisis.”

In addition to crisis management, real estate regulators continued to work together on a major project that was initiated before the pandemic–the development of a national competency profile for real estate agents, brokers and agency executive officers, which will facilitate the oversight of practices and the development of training programs across Canada. Working groups have been created and all are actively involved so that this project can become a reality in 2021.

But one thing is certain–RERC’s regulators will have more than one topic to add to the agenda of their next meeting. In the meantime, everyone remains focused on fulfilling its mission of protecting the public and ensuring strict supervision of real estate brokerage practices across the country.