Real Estate FAQs - Consumer Protection in Real Estate Transactions

We encourage public confidence by impartially setting and enforcing standards of conduct, education, competency and licensing for real estate licensees.

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In BC, licensed real estate professionals must:

Frequently Asked Questions about Real Estate Consumer Protection in BC

  • Can I still represent myself in a real estate transaction?

    Yes. You may choose to be unrepresented rather than working with a licensee.

    Before making that decision, you should consider the risks of remaining unrepresented, and the potential benefits of having a real estate professional represent your interests in a trade in real estate.

  • When do I need to decide whether to be represented or not?

    Q: I want to look at a couple of homes with a licensee. But I am not sure if I want a client relationship or if I want to be an unrepresented buyer. Do I have to decide right away?

    It is up to you and the real estate professional you are working with to decide whether you wish to enter a client relationship. The real estate professional is not obliged to provide you with services (such as showing you homes) if you have not yet decided whether you wish to be their client.

In BC, real estate professionals cannot represent two or more clients in the same transaction whose interests are in conflict, except in the rarest of circumstances. For example, a property seller and a prospective buyer for that property. Representing two clients whose interests are in conflict is called dual agency. The practice of dual agency was prohibited in BC in 2018.

  • Why was dual agency prohibited?

    The practice of dual agency raised a number of concerns for consumers, including that:

    • a real estate professional may not be able to be completely loyal and impartial to two clients with competing interests
    • a real estate professional may not be able to properly advise those clients without improperly disclosing their confidential information to each other
    • a real estate professional acting as a dual agent might prioritize his or her own interest in earning the whole commission, rather than acting in the best interest of his or her clients.

    For these reasons, in 2016 an Independent Advisory Group on real estate regulation in BC recommended that limited dual agency be prohibited in BC. In 2018 the Superintendent of Real Estate prohibited limited dual agency, except in very limited circumstances.

  • Can I make an offer on a property my real estate agent has listed?

    Q: I have been working with a real estate professional for six months trying to buy a home. I came across one of his listings, and I am interested in making an offer. I want him to represent me but he says he can’t, because dual agency is no longer allowed. Why can’t I work with him anymore?

    Real estate professional are no longer allowed to engage in dual agency, except in very specific circumstances. Your real estate professional cannot represent both you (the buyer) and the seller in the same transaction.

    However, you can choose a different real estate professional to represent you going forward. Your real estate professional can suggest names of other real estate professional who may be able to assist you.

Strata Management Questions

  • How do I file a complaint against a strata manager?

    On January 1, 2006, strata management became an activity for which a real estate licence is required and the conduct of licensed strata managers became subject to the requirements of the Real Estate Services Act, over which the Real Estate Council has jurisdiction. However, the Strata Property Act, the legislation that governs the rights and obligations of strata corporations, strata councils and strata owners, remains a self-administered statute and there are no enforcement provisions for the Government of BC or the Real Estate Council. Under the Strata Property Act, it is up to the owners themselves, with the possible assistance of the courts or an arbitrator and/or mediator, to resolve disputes and ensure compliance with the provisions of the Strata Property Act.

    Strata managers act under the direction of the strata council of the strata corporation, by which they are engaged. It is the strata corporation as a whole that is the client of the strata manager, not the individual owners. Therefore, if individual strata owners have concerns about a strata manager, they are advised to first take their concerns to their strata council for resolution and any action the strata council may see fit to take. This may include the strata council submitting a complaint to the Real Estate Council with respect to the conduct of the strata manager if the strata council believes the strata manager has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee under the Real Estate Services Act.

    In most cases, the Real Estate Council requires complaints regarding the performance of licensed strata managers to be submitted by strata councils, accompanied by a copy of the minutes of the strata council meeting that confirms the passing of a motion to submit such a complaint to the Real Estate Council. Notwithstanding the above policy, the Council will on a case-by-case basis investigate a complaint by an individual if the individual provides sufficient evidence, or where the Council identifies during a preliminary enquiry, that the licensee may have committed professional misconduct as defined in the Real Estate Services Act.

  • Do owners in a strata corporation require licensing, or can a strata corporation be self-managed without licensing?

    Strata corporations may self-manage without being licensed. This self-management may be undertaken by strata lot owners within the strata corporation. Sections 2.1 and 2.18 of the Real Estate Services Regulation provide for exemptions from licensing for employees of the strata corporation, and for caretakers/managers employed by the strata corporation, respectively. The details of these exemption sections may be reviewed by viewing the Real Estate Services Regulation.

  • Does a strata corporation have to enter into a ‘standard’ service agreement with a brokerage that is providing strata management services to it?

    Section 5-1 of the Rules requires a brokerage wishing to provide strata management services to a strata corporation to enter into a written service agreement with that client unless the client does not wish to do so. If such an agreement is entered into, section 5-1 outlines a number of typical issues which must be addressed in that agreement. It does not dictate how those issues are to be addressed. That is a matter of negotiation between the parties.

    Some strata management brokerages may prefer to enter into a ‘standard’ agreement which has been created by a law firm on behalf of strata management associations, knowing that this agreement addresses the issues required to be addressed by section 5-1 of the Rules. However, strata corporations are at liberty to negotiate how any or all of the matters set out in section 5-1 are to be established. Strata corporations may wish to obtain independent legal advice with respect to the service agreement they are been asked to enter into.

  • If a strata corporation enters into a service agreement with a brokerage, is that brokerage required to hold the strata corporation’s funds?

    No. As with other aspects of the services that a strata manager may provide, this is a matter of negotiation between the strata corporation and the brokerage. If a brokerage is to collect and hold funds on behalf of the strata corporation, those funds must be kept in a separate trust account in the name of the brokerage on behalf of the client e.g. ABC Strata Management Co. in trust for VR 12777. If the brokerage is to also collect and hold special levy and/or contingency reserve funds on behalf of the strata corporation, those funds must be held in at least one other separate trust account.