Letter to the Superintendents Office

May 15, 2018

Mr. Michael Noseworthy
Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate
Suite 2800 – 555 West Hastings Street
Vancouver BC, V6B 4N6

Dear Mr. Noseworthy,

Thank you for your response to our submission dated April 20, 2018 and our request for a meeting. We appreciate the follow-up; however, we are disappointed we were not given an opportunity to meet as it would have been an opportunity to discuss the valuable insights we have gained from our industry leaders and through the public opinion research we have conducted.

We hope that there remains an opportunity for a meaningful dialogue before the proposed rule changes are implemented, and we ask that you reconsider our request for a meeting to discuss the concerns, recommendations and expectations of BC consumers.

Licensees in general want to comply with the Rules, but without absolute clarity and certainty they will be vulnerable to facing significant disciplinary penalties and more importantly, putting consumers at risk.

Today, one month prior to the scheduled rule implementation, the new forms and corresponding rule interpretations were finally made available to licensees on the RECBC “Knowledge Base” web site, it is notable that significant errors in the information required the RECBC to retract and amend that statement. The error noted wasn’t typographical or grammatical but a clear misinterpretation of the rules.

Should RECBC or the OSRE make an error, a simple retraction of the statement and a correction would apparently suffice, should a licensee, now that they are responsible to self-educate, fail to correctly interpret the intentions of the regulators they will be at risk of incurring a “life altering penalty”.

The burden placed on brokerages and licensees to assimilate and comply with the complex and technical rules as contemplated, without a structured training regimine is unreasonable, irresponsible and reckless, it undermines the confidence in the regulators and the current regulatory structure.

It is imperative for the OSRE to provide greater clarity in advance of any new rules coming into effect as noted in the OSRE previous public consultation comments:

OSRE is committed to working closely with the Real Estate Council to ensure licensees and consumers have greater clarity on how any approved rules will operate in practice. Additional direction will be provided in advance of any new rules coming into effect.

While it remains clear that the regulators understand the importance of education and training, in practice, it seems that responsibility is shifting away from the Regulator and to the licensee:

OSRE public consultation 27 April: “An important component in strengthening protections for real estate consumers is ensuring that licensees are trained and knowledgeable about key developments as they relate to the standards of professional conduct which they are expected to observe as professionals.”

The response dated May 14, 2018 to REAL BC from the OSRE:
“Licensees should not wait until June 15, 2018 or Council’s new course to prepare for the approaching implementation date. OSRE encourages licensees to take proactive steps to educate themselves and determine what, if any, business practice changes are necessary to comply with the new Rules. The Superintendent is confident that the industry can and will adapt in a positive manner to the new Rules.”

The assumption that licensees will be aware, be able to educate themselves, and understand how to comply with a rule when it takes effect is unreasonable and unrealistic:
• There are changes to the rule interpretations that are ongoing.
• Questions posed to the regulators regarding the new rules & interpretations have yet to be answered.
• The mandatory education course on compliance under the new rules has not yet been launched nor will licensees have access to the education prior to the effective date of the rule implementation.
• The forms have just been made available to licensees (May 15).

As noted in RECBC’s Service Plan:

Objective 1 states: “Consumers and licensees will have the information and resources they need to participate effectively in real estate transactions”.

When it comes to public education, how will licensees be able to effectively educate the public when they have yet to be trained on the new rules?

We support the public education focus of the RFP by the Real Estate Council on May 14th for a consumer awareness campaign. However, we are perplexed by the timing – this should have been done in ADVANCE of rule changes – not after they have already come into effect.

We do not support the aggressive time frame for the rule implementation, instead the OSRE should allow more time for meaningful feedback and provide assurances that brokers, licensees and the public are well informed and educated on the new rules.

We are calling on the OSRE to:

1. Cancel/postpone the June 15, 2018 implementation date for Rule changes.
2. Engage with a broad range of stakeholders including consumer groups, licensees, and other relevant stakeholders to gain an up-to-date and accurate understanding of the issues and needs of licensees and their consumer/clients.
3. Ensure real estate rules reflect a robust and thorough study of the sector, and that they respect and empower consumers.
4. Ensure any future changes are free of ambiguity and confusion about how requirements are to be properly followed, thereby minimizing risk to the public interest.
5. Commit to a broad and inclusive public and professional education campaign in advance of any future rule changes to ensure sufficient levels of awareness, support and adherence.

We welcome the opportunity to work with the OSRE and other stakeholders on ensuring we have real estate laws in BC that protect and empower consumers by providing them with the information, resources and tools that they need to make informed real estate decisions.

Sincerely,

Ian Mackay and Ian Thompson
REAL BC