II. Starting a Brokerage
(a) Display Of Licences
Section 4-1 of the Rules requires a brokerage to keep the brokerage licence for the head office prominently displayed in the head office and the brokerage licence for a branch office prominently displayed in the branch office. The brokerage licence kept in a binder is not considered prominently displayed.
The brokerage must keep the licence of all related licensees available for public inspection at the related brokerage office.
Under section 4-2 of the Rules, a brokerage must display on or near the door of its head office and any branch office a sign that clearly shows the brokerage’s licensee name. If the building has a directory, the brokerage must have its licensee name listed and an indication of where the offices are located.
(c) Brokerage Offices
(i) Commercial Premises
Other than the limited circumstances set out below in relation to residential offices, the head office or branch office of the brokerage must be situated in commercial premises.
(ii) Residential Offices
Section 2-5 of the Rules provides that a brokerage may only have a residential office as a head or branch office if the office is located in the residence of a related managing broker, the office is a separate office within the residence and the local government bylaws permit the brokerage business to be conducted from the residence. Subject to any conditions or restrictions contained in local government bylaws, only two licensees may be licensed in relation to a residential brokerage office.
Additionally, the managing broker of the brokerage must be the sole proprietor if the brokerage is a sole proprietorship, a partner if the brokerage is a partnership, or either the controlling shareholder or one of only two shareholders, with the other shareholder being either the spouse or family partner of the managing broker, if the brokerage is a corporation.
(iii) Branch Offices
If a brokerage wishes to provide real estate services at premises other than the brokerage’s head office, the brokerage must obtain licensing for those premises as a “branch office”. If the office is used by related licensees to only complete paperwork and make telephone calls, and the office does not have any signage to indicate that it is a real estate office, it will not be required to obtain licensing under the Act as noted below under the heading “Personal Offices”.
A branch office must have a qualified individual to act as the managing broker. A managing broker may be licensed in relation to a maximum of four licences of a brokerage (i.e. a head office and three branch offices or four branch offices). (Please note that an application form and licensing fee will be required for any additional managing broker licences.) This managing broker would then be required to be actively engaged and provide an adequate level of supervision for the office locations and would be responsible for all related licensees of the offices.
A staffed kiosk in a shopping mall does not require licensing as a branch office provided that the brokerage has a permanent licensed office situated in the same shopping mall and the Council has been notified, in writing, of the kiosk’s existence.
A display kiosk does not require licensing as a branch office provided it is only a display and not staffed by real estate licensees or others.
(iv) Temporary Locations
A brokerage providing real estate services on a temporary basis such as at trade shows, flea markets or on-site at a project or subdivision does not require a branch office licence provided that the activity is restricted to the duration of the event or the life of the project.
(v) Personal Offices
In many cases, individual licensees engaged by a brokerage also wish to maintain a personal office. Brokerages should be aware that licensees must comply with the following requirements with respect to their personal offices. Under section 4-3 of the Rules, if a licensee maintains a personal office from which the licensee provides real estate services, the following requirements apply:
No sign may be placed outside the office or the building in which the office is located or from where it is visible from outside the office or building, that indicates real estate services are provided from the office;
The phone for the office must not be answered in the name of the related brokerage of the licensee;
The licensee must not indicate the office address on any real estate advertising or on any other records relating to the provision of real estate services.
As long as the foregoing requirements are met, a personal office is not required to be licensed as a branch office.
Licensees who provide real estate services from a personal office must ensure that they:
- provide their related brokerage, in a timely manner, with all documentation received related to trades in real estate in which they are involved and the real estate services they are providing;
- immediately deliver all funds received in respect of a trade in real estate or the real estate services they are providing to their related brokerage for deposit into trust.