Year in Review
Licensing Course Enrollment
For 57 years, the University of British Columbia has administered the licensing course education for the Council. Thanks to the high educational standards at the Real Estate Division, Sauder School of Business, BC’s new licensees are among the best prepared in North America.
The number of students enrolled in trading, rental and strata licensing courses has risen sharply in 2014/15, increasing by 34% over the prior year, while numbers of individuals registered in the broker’s licensing course remained relatively stable. Although course enrollment is high, not all students go on to obtain their real estate licence: some do not complete the course, others are unsuccessful in attempts to pass the licensing examination, and still others choose not to become licensed.
The numbers of individuals licensed to deliver real estate services in BC are currently at their highest levels ever: there are 22,005 licenced real estate professionals in the province. This is an increase of 4% over 2013/14. Since 2005, the number of licensees has increased by nearly 40%.
The Council issues licences in three categories: trading services, rental property management services, and strata management services. The six members of the Council’s licensing staff review and process licence applications and renewals for individuals and brokerages, as well as answering a variety of enquiries about the licensing process and receiving requests for exemptions.
Licensees by Licence Category
Office Audits and Inspections
All licensed brokerages in BC must have proper controls in place to protect trust monies. In order to ensure that these trust monies are appropriately safeguarded, since 1967 the Council has conducted office and records inspections of licensed brokerages. The objective of the inspections is to identify any deficiencies in a brokerage’s office records, and to provide constructive feedback to brokerages to assist them in correcting these deficiencies.
Inspections are conducted when:
- A complaint has been received from a consumer, a licensee, or the Superintendent of Real Estate;
- Exceptions are noted on Accountant’s Reports;
- Previous spot audit reports identified deficiencies;
- A brokerage has opened for business in the past year;
- A branch office handling trust funds has opened in the past year; or
- As a result of suspensions due to disciplinary orders.
In 2014/15, the Council received 536 complaints. When the Council receives a complaint about a licensee, the Council’s compliance officers conduct an initial assessment to determine whether:
- the Council has jurisdiction in the matter;
- the matter can be informally resolved;
- the complainant is aware that the Council cannot remedy civil wrongs (e.g. in cases where a licensee has been negligent or committed an omission); and
- the complainant has included all information and documentation required to begin an investigation, if necessary.
The purpose of an investigation is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest a licensee may have contravened RESA, the Regulation, Bylaws or Rules, or acted in a way that might constitute conduct unbecoming a licensee. Those complaints that are not summarily resolved are referred to a Complaints Committee, whose responsibility it is to review the complaint, the responses received from the licensee, and the results of the Council’s investigation.
If the Complaints Committee is satisfied that there is no indication of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee, the Committee will close the file with no further action. If it appears that the licensee may have committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee, the Complaints Committee may recommend a letter of advisement, or a formal disciplinary hearing.
Disciplinary and Hearing Processes
The Council has the authority, pursuant to sections 40 and 42 of RESA, to hold formal disciplinary hearings.
In the event that a licensee wishes to admit to the Council’s allegations, the licensee may make a proposal under section 41 of RESA to settle the matter by way of a Consent Order. This process avoids the necessity of a formal hearing and can save time and expense for the licensee. A proposal includes an Agreed Statement of Facts, appropriate admissions, and a request as to outcome on terms acceptable to the Council’s lawyers. Once a draft proposal has been settled by the licensee and the Council’s legal staff, it will be reviewed by a Discipline Committee known as the Consent Order Review Committee. This committee may accept or reject the proposed Consent Order.
In 2014/15, the Council entered into 88 Consent Orders with licensees. Since 2005, the numbers of consent orders have increased while the numbers of hearings have remained relatively steady. In that year, there were 46 Consent Orders, or slightly greater than half the number entered into in 2014/15.
HEARINGS AND CONSENT ORDERS
Under RESA, the Council’s Discipline Committee may impose a range of disciplinary sanctions if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee. If there is such a finding, section 43(2) of RESA requires the Discipline Committee to do one or more of the following:
- reprimand the licensee;
- suspend the licensee’s licence for a period of time and/or until specified conditions are met;
- suspend the licence in urgent circumstances;
- cancel the licensee’s licence;
- impose restrictions or conditions on the licensee’s licence, or vary any applicable restrictions or conditions;
- require the licensee to cease or carry out any specified activity related to the licensee’s real estate business;
- require the licensee to enroll in and complete a course of study or training;
- require the licensee to pay a disciplinary penalty in an amount of not more than $20,000 in the case of a brokerage or former brokerage, or not more than $10,000 in any other case.
The Council may also recover enforcement expenses in accordance with section 44 of RESA.
The overall number of discipline decisions handed down by the Council in 2014/15 was relatively consistent with the year prior. Discipline penalties and licence cancellations increased slightly, while suspensions and reprimands showed slight decreases. There were six permanent surrenders of licence by licensees in 2014/15: a significant increase from one the previous year. Permanent surrenders of licence occur in situations where a licensee requests that the Council discontinue disciplinary proceedings against them as the licensee has decided to agree to a lifetime ban from real estate practice in British Columbia.