When Real Estate Reps Fall Short - Any Recourse For Consumers?

Real estate transactions can go sour for any number of reasons. It could be financing, timing issues, failure to fulfil a condition of sale, or some other cause related to the deal itself. But what happens when dispute shifts focus onto the sales agent or broker? The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) provides a framework to address consumer complaints.

Reps Accountable For Upholding Professional Standards

All real estate professionals in Ontario must be registered with RECO. This watchdog agency regulates its members by enforcing the province's rules about their professional conduct. The law holds agents and brokers to high standards that include such principles as transparency, fairness, honesty and competence.

Our post last week mentioned some of the complaints that consumers raise against sales reps. If homebuyers or sellers feel that their rep fell short, the problem might be resolved privately with frank discussion with the agent or the brokerage. Failing that, they can file an official complaint through RECO.

How Complaints Are Handled

Issues can turn out to be violations of law, regulations, or the Code of Ethics. When a consumer files an official complaint, RECO determines where to direct it. Some matters may need escalation to other authorities. Many cases can be handled by RECO itself. For matters falling within its authority, RECO makes an investigation and then issues a decision.

If the agent is found to have engaged in unprofessional conduct, several outcomes may ensue. The sales agent may:

  • Receive a warning that appears permanently on their professional record
  • Be required to attend professional training or courses
  • Be ordered to take a certain action to correct the problem
  • Have his or her licence suspended or revoked
  • Face a disciplinary hearing or court

What RECO cannot do is award compensation or damages to a complainant. That's where a consumer is wise to seek the advice of a real estate lawyer - and without delay.

Buying? Selling? Encountering trouble?

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