When Things Go Wrong
Working with a REALTOR® will go a long way to ensuring that the sale or purchase of your home will go smoothly. There are times, however, when even professional service goes awry and things are not as they should be. You may think the REALTOR® is at fault. What do you do?
The first step would be to talk to the REALTOR® and/or his or her Broker or Manager - this is the person to whom the salesperson reports and either owns or manages the office. Perhaps the problem is simply a misunderstanding that can be worked out by the parties involved or there may be steps the Broker can recommend to help resolve any impasse.
The second step you may consider is to contact your lawyer. Depending on what exactly has happened and what circumstances exist, your lawyer may be able to mediate things up or at the very least let you know what your choices are.
One choice you may not know about is the Business Practices Complaints Process managed by the local real estate board to which the REALTOR® belongs and how discussing the situation with someone in the Board office could assist you in resolving the problem.
Although rules vary from Board to Board to province to province, there are some basic rules by which all REALTORS® (that is, members of a local real estate board or provincial real estate association) must abide - they are known collectively as the Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice.
The Board staff member who handles complaints from the public is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of real estate transactions, rules governing members, the Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice and rules of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®). He or she will be able to tell you if you have the basis for making a complaint about the Member to the Board and direct you to information that will assist you in assessing the situation for yourself.
Should you feel that the salesperson or Broker you dealt with treated you unfairly or failed to do their job properly, you may write a letter of complaint to the real estate Board. They will investigate your complaint by contacting the salesperson and his or her Broker to get their side of the story. Once they have your complaint and their Member’s response to your complaint, they will decide if there should be a hearing to investigate further.
A hearing is simply a meeting of the people involved in your complaint - you and the REALTOR® you complained about - plus a hearing panel. The panel is made up of a group of real estate Brokers and/or salespeople who are Members of the organization to which you have sent your complaint. These members, like most others in the organization, have a real interest in ensuring Members perform their duties and offer their services according to the rules and regulations of the Board and the Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice.
A hearing can have one of two outcomes: the complaint against the Member can be either dismissed or upheld. If the complaint is dismissed, it means that there was either no evidence or insufficient evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the salesperson and his or her Broker. If the complaint is upheld, it means that the hearing panel found enough evidence that the salesperson and/or Broker participated in wrongdoing; the panel then has the power to apply penalties to the salesperson and/or the broker.
Why make the complaint? There are a number of good reasons.
To begin, real estate Boards and the British Columbia Real Estate Association are very interested in having their Members act professionally and in accordance with provincial and real estate Board regulations and guidelines. Any time they are acting otherwise it reflects badly on the industry as a whole.
Secondly, if a member is participating in something they should not be, the Board and Association have an interest in ensuring that the member is made aware that his or her behaviour is unacceptable and that remedial action is taken.
Thirdly, if the REALTOR® has done something which has put you or your real estate transaction in jeopardy, but has done it unknowingly, it is in everyone’s interest that that REALTOR® learn the proper procedures.
It isn’t often that transactions go amiss because of the actions of a real estate salesperson, but when they do, it’s good to know there is somewhere you can go.
Multiple Listing Service, MLS® and REALTOR® are registered trademarks of the Canadian Real Estate Association. REALTOR® identifies a real estate practitioner who is a member of the Association.
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