Disciplinary Process

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RECBC has authority under the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, Rules and Bylaws to investigate the conduct and competence of licensed real estate professionals. 

Here you will find information on RECBC’s administrative, regulatory and disciplinary procedures to assist complainants and real estate professionals who are responding to complaints. RECBC’s goal is to ensure that all administrative, regulatory and disciplinary processes relating to professional conduct are handled in a uniform and fair manner.

RECBC's Role

RECBC is a regulatory agency established by the provincial government. Its mandate is to protect the public by enforcing the licensing and licensee conduct requirements of the Real Estate Services Act. 

RECBC is responsible for:

  • licensing individuals and brokerages engaged in real estate sales, rental property management and strata management activities
  • monitoring and enforcing entry qualifications
  • investigating complaints against real estate professionals related to possible professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a professional
  • conducting disciplinary hearings
  • imposing administrative penalties or disciplinary sanctions.
RECBC does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate monetary or contract matters or assess or award damages, all of which come under the jurisdiction of the civil courts.  Anyone who seeks to deal with monetary or contract matters must pursue a civil remedy through legal proceedings.

Conduct Concerns

Consumers who are concerned about the actions or services provided by a real estate professional should take these steps before filing a complaint or making an anonymous tip to RECBC.

  1. Discuss the concern with the professional.
  2. If the matter is still not resolved, discuss the concern with the managing broker in charge of the brokerage. 
  3. If the managing broker is not able to resolve the matter to your satisfaction, consider contacting an RECBC Professional Standards Advisor.  They can provide information about the services to expect from real estate professionals and answer questions about real estate transactions.
 

Licensed Strata Managers

As of 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 RECBC 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 RECBC. 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 RECBC 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, RECBC 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 RECBC. Notwithstanding the above policy, RECBC will on a case-by-case basis investigate a complaint by an individual if the individual provides sufficient evidence, or where RECBC identifies during a preliminary enquiry, that the real estate professional may have committed professional misconduct as defined in the Real Estate Services Act.

*There is provision in the Real Estate Services Act that exempts a self-managed strata corporation from the licensing requirements when an owner is providing the strata management services. The owner is limited to managing no more than two strata corporations, provided the owner owns a strata lot in each of the strata corporations. In addition, a strata caretaker employed by a strata corporation or a caretaker employed by a brokerage providing strata management services is also exempt from the licensing requirements so long as certain conditions are met.

Complaints

Direct your concern or complaint regarding possible professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a professional that cannot be resolved informally to RECBC.
The complaint should be in writing, signed by the complainant, and accompanied by any relevant supporting documentation.

Complaint Form

Click here to download the complaints form and fill it out.

 

Complainants and any other witnesses called by RECBC will receive reasonable and necessary travelling and lodging expenses in accordance with the Supreme Court Rules.

Please note that in some cases when complaints are received from outside the province, RECBC may require complainants to agree to attend a disciplinary hearing should a hearing be ordered.

Assessing Complaints

We carefully review the complaints we receive, to determine whether:

  • RECBC has jurisdiction to act
  • the complaint can be informally resolved;
  • the complainant is aware that RECBC cannot remedy a civil wrong
  • the complainant understands the professional and ethical responsibilities of the real estate professional in the particular transaction;
  • the complainant has included with their complaint all information and documentation sufficient for the commencement of an investigation, if necessary.

An RECBC Compliance Officer may telephone the complainant at the initial complaint assessment stage to develop a better understanding of the issues surrounding the complaint and to ensure that the complainant understands RECBC’s investigation and discipline processes.

After an initial assessment of each complaint has been made, an RECBC Compliance Officer may advise the complainant that:

  • his or her specific complaint will not be investigated at this time because similar complaints are the subject of investigation,
  • a copy of the complaint will be provided to the licensee,
  • and the complainant will be advised of the outcome.

Investigative Process

A summary of the complaint will be sent to the real estate professional involved, as well as to the managing broker at the brokerage where they are engaged. The real estate professional must provide a written response to the complaint against them. RECBC may request that the real estate professional respond to questions posed by RECBC about the matters that gave rise to the complaint or other concerns arising from the complaint.

The real estate professional and their managing broker are also asked to provide copies of all documents and records that relate to the complaint. The real estate professional is advised that their response, or questions arising from their response, may be forwarded to the complainants for their comments in order to assist RECBC with its investigation.

RECBC is bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of British Columbia when releasing documents to any party.

 

Investigation

RECBC may conduct an investigation to determine whether a real estate professional has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a professional within the meaning of the Real Estate Services Act.  

The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there has been:

  • conduct that:
    • -contravenes the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, Bylaws or the Rules
    • -contravenes a licence restriction or licence condition
    • -demonstrates incompetence in performing any activity for which a licence is required
    • -misappropriates or wrongfully converts money or other property entrusted to or received by the professional in relation to the provision of real estate services
    • -fails to comply with an order of RECBC, a Discipline Committee, or the Superintendent of Real Estate
      • -is contrary to the best interests of the public
      • -undermines public confidence in the real estate industry
      • -brings the real estate industry into disrepute.

RECBC may refer the investigation findings to RECBC’s Legal Department for a review and a determination on next steps. The Legal Department will review the investigation findings and may, upon review and where they are satisfied that there is no indication of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming, dismiss the complaint and close the file.The complainant and the real estate professional will be informed of this outcome.

If the Legal Department’s review supports a finding of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a professional, then the next steps will be determined by the seriousness of the contravention and may include one of the following:

  • a letter of advisement
  • a formal disciplinary hearing.
 

Where there are collateral civil or criminal proceedings pending and the issues in the proceedings are substantially the same as those in the complaint, RECBC will not normally postpone an investigation or hearing pending the outcome of the proceedings. However, a postponement may be considered if a request is made by either the complainant or real estate professional and it can be shown that there will be actual prejudice to either party if RECBC continues with its investigation or hearing.

Responding to RECBC Inquiries

As part of RECBC’s investigative process,we may ask the real estate professional to respond to allegations of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming. We may also ask the professional to provide copies of all contracts, service agreements, trade record sheets, agency and other disclosure forms, correspondence and any other relevant documents related to the subject matter of the inquiry.

It is important for real estate professionals to note that under the Real Estate Services Act, RECBC may require a real estate professional to answer inquiries relating to the investigation and to produce information, records or other things in the person’s possession or control for examination by the investigator.

Real estate professionals are entitled to retain legal counsel to assist in responding to RECBC and should consider doing so. Real estate professionals should also speak to their managing broker about preparing to respond to, or meet with an RECBC investigator, even if no allegations are made against the managing broker.

When responding to RECBC inquiries, a real estate professional should:

  • give a full and fair accounting of the events that gave rise to the inquiry;
  • give copies of all documents requested—often the complainant gives RECBC more documentation than the real estate professional, and the professional should ensure that RECBC has a complete picture;
  • remember that they may be cross-examined, if a hearing is conducted, on all statements they make in the response. Therefore, accuracy and completeness are crucial.

Most real estate professionals respond to inquiries from RECBC in a cooperative and professional fashion. Unfortunately, some  treat the correspondence and the requests for information as either unimportant or a nuisance.

A real estate professional should not:

  • ignore the request—that will just lead to further disciplinary action by RECBC. Under section 2-19 of the Rules, real estate professionals must respond promptly in writing to any inquiry by RECBC;
  • treat the request as inconsequential—the complaint may ultimately lead to a hearing which may result in costs, licence reprimand, suspension, cancellation and/or financial penalty;
  • conceal or withhold information—this is a contravention under section 37(4) of the Real Estate Services Act;
  • be sarcastic or emotional in the response—the real estate professional may be cross-examined on his or her response at a hearing.

Resolving Complaints

Complaints can be processed and resolved in a number of ways, including summarily, as a result of being closed administratively or through an administrative penalty, or formally, as a result of a disciplinary hearing.

Closed Administratively

 

Approximately 50% of all complaints received by RECBC are closed administratively. A complaint file may be closed at any stage where it is found that:

  • RECBC has no jurisdiction over the matter (i.e. including matters that are not related to providing real estate services, as that term is defined in the Real Estate Services Act);
  • there is no evidence of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a professional;
  • the complaint has been dealt with to the complainant’s and RECBC’s satisfaction by the brokerage or the real estate professional;
  • the complaint has been withdrawn. RECBC is not compelled to cease an investigation or disciplinary hearing even if the complainant indicates a desire to withdraw a complaint.

Administrative Penalties

Contraventions of designated Rules may result in RECBC imposing an administrative penalty on a real estate professional.

Examples include failure to comply with advertising rules and failure to maintain proper books and records. Where RECBC intends to impose an administrative penalty, it will first notify the real estate professional of the rule that has been contravened, the amount of the administrative penalty to be imposed, and advise the professional of their right to be heard respecting the matter.

Hearings

RECBC has the authority, pursuant to sections 40 and 42 of the Real Estate Services Act, to hold a formal disciplinary hearing. RECBC appoints a Discipline Committee to conduct the hearing. A Discipline Committee may consist of at least three individuals, a majority of whom must be Council members. If the real estate professional does not object, a Discipline Committee may consist of a single Council member. In either case, no member of a Discipline Committee will have reviewed the complaint at the Complaints Committee stage.

 

Once a hearing is ordered, RECBC will send a letter to the real estate professional advising that a hearing will be scheduled. In due course, a notice of hearing, which outlines the alleged contraventions, is issued. At that time, the real estate professional is asked to consider whether they wish to enter into a consent order.

A real estate professional intending to engage a lawyer should consult their lawyer as soon as possible after receiving this notice in order to decide whether entering into a consent order may be preferable to a formal hearing. Any real estate professional named in a notice of hearing who is unable to appear on the specified date must immediately contact the RECBC office so that an application may be made to adjourn the hearing to an alternate date.

Agreed Statement of Facts

In some circumstances, the facts in a matter may be fairly straight forward and, as a result, there may be no argument regarding what happened. A real estate professional may wish to admit to some or all of the RECBC’s allegations. If the real estate professional and RECBC staff agree, an agreed statement of facts may be submitted to the Discipline Committee.

This could eliminate the necessity of calling witnesses and, while the hearing would still proceed, it could be reduced in scope and less costly for all parties involved.

In the event that a real estate professional wishes to admit the allegations and consents to a Discipline Committee making a specified order under section 43 of the Real Estate Services Act, they may make a proposal under section 41 to settle the matter by way of a consent order. This process avoids the necessity of a formal hearing and can save considerable time and expense.

A proposal includes an agreed statement of facts, appropriate admissions and a request as to outcome on terms acceptable to RECBC legal staff. Written notice must be given to RECBC at least 21 days before the hearing date. RECBC’s legal staff can assist in the preparation of the proposal.

Monetary penalties and expenses incurred by RECBC in the enforcement of the provisions of the Real Estate Services Act can be recovered by RECBC through this process.Once a draft proposal has been settled by the real estate professional and RECBC’s legal staff, it will be reviewed by a Discipline Committee called a Consent Order Review Committee.

This committee may accept, reject or counter the proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the committee will issue a consent order on the terms set out in the proposal. As part of the consent order process, the real estate professional is required to waive their right to appeal.

As with any RECBC decision, the Superintendent of Real Estate has the right to appeal a consent order. If a real estate professional and RECBC legal staff cannot agree on the facts or what would be an appropriate penalty, a formal hearing will be scheduled.

The complainant and the real estate professional, at their expense, may be represented by a lawyer. RECBC has no obligation to retain a lawyer for either the complainant or the real estate professional. RECBC will appoint a lawyer to present evidence at the hearing.

Hearing Procedure

While hearing procedures may vary with particular situations, the following procedures will generally be followed:

  • The hearings are usually held at RECBC’s office in Vancouver. On occasion, hearings will be held in other locations within the province. Hearings are public proceedings and the public is welcome to attend.
  • A Court reporter is present at all hearings to record all of the evidence and submissions. Anyone may obtain a transcript of part or all of a hearing at their expense by making arrangements with the reporter. The name of the reporter for a particular hearing may be obtained from the RECBC office.
  • The hearing room is arranged so that the members of the Discipline Committee and RECBC’s administrative support staff are seated together. A table is provided in front of the Discipline Committee where the real estate professional and their lawyer, if any, may sit. The lawyer acting for RECBC also sits at a table before the Discipline Committee.
  • After calling the hearing to order, the Chair will read the allegations and then ask all present to identify themselves for the record.
  • The lawyer acting for RECBC will, if appropriate, make opening comments as to the issues to be considered by the Discipline Committee.
  • The real estate professional or their lawyer has the option of making opening comments before RECBC calls any evidence or waiting until RECBC’s case has been completed.
  • The lawyer acting for RECBC will then call the complainant and any other witnesses to give evidence. After their evidence in chief, they may be asked questions by way of cross-examination by the real estate professional or their lawyer.
  • At the end of the cross-examination, if any members of the Discipline Committee are unclear as to the circumstances or uncertain as to an answer given by a witness, they may indicate to the Chair any question that they feel is required to clarify the matter. The lawyer acting for RECBC and the real estate professional or their lawyer may make submissions as to the appropriateness of questions before the witness answers the question.
  • The notice of hearing will normally require the real estate professional to produce all documents, including accounting records relating to the matters at issue and actual production of that material may be requested at any point in the hearing.
  • After all of RECBC witnesses have testified, the real estate professional or their lawyer may give opening comments before giving evidence, if they have not already done so. They can then give evidence and call their own witnesses.
  • The real estate professional or their lawyer may complete their examination in chief and the licensee will then be subject to cross-examination by the lawyer acting for RECBC and other real estate professionals, if any.
  • After all of the evidence is heard, the lawyer acting for RECBC will make submissions to the Discipline Committee as to what conclusions might properly be drawn from the evidence and the real estate professional or their lawyer shall have a similar opportunity. The Discipline Committee will then deliberate as to whether there was any wrongdoing. Should there be such a finding, a separate hearing to determine penalty and enforcement expenses will normally be held.
  • The real estate professional may have the option, prior to the commencement of the hearing, of having both stages of the hearing heard together by signing a waiver foregoing their right to a separate hearing as to penalty and enforcement expenses. Having signed a waiver, the real estate professional may revoke that waiver at any time up to the conclusion of all of the evidence.
  • In certain circumstances, despite having received a request for a waiver by a real estate professional, the two-step model will be employed due to either the complexity of the issues or the existence of a previous discipline record. When separate hearings with respect to the issues of penalty and enforcement expenses are held, the Discipline Committee may invite written or oral submissions on penalty and enforcement expenses.

Role of the Professional

A real estate professional whose conduct is in question is entitled to be in attendance throughout the hearing. A real estate professional who is alleged to have contravened the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, Bylaws or Rules is a compellable witness at a formal hearing.

Sometimes there are a number of professionals involved in a transaction that has resulted in the filing of a complaint. To assess the conduct of all of the professionals involved in a fair and impartial manner, it may be necessary to require all professionals to give evidence at a formal hearing.

Witnesses

RECBC and Discipline Committees, pursuant to subsection 42(2) of the Real Estate Services Act, have the same powers as a commissioner under the Administrative Tribunals Act to compel the attendance of witnesses and to require the production of documents. The real estate professional is responsible for having any witnesses that they wish to give evidence at the hearing attend to give evidence. Should a witness, who is in a position to give relevant evidence, be reluctant to attend the hearing, RECBC’s powers may be used to ensure the attendance of the witness.

The real estate professional should provide RECBC with appropriate advance notice should they wish to have RECBC summons a witness. While a Discipline Committee is not bound to follow the formal rules of evidence, these rules are generally used as a guideline. Witnesses may be required to wait outside the hearing room prior to giving evidence, although they are entitled to attend the balance of the hearing after they have testified.

Complainants and any other witnesses called by RECBC will receive reasonable and necessary travelling and lodging expenses in accordance with the Supreme Court Rules.

At times, witnesses may be concerned that their evidence at an RECBC hearing could be used against them in subsequent criminal or civil proceedings. Witnesses may ask for and be given the protection of either or both of the federal or provincial Evidence Act, which means that the evidence cannot be used against those witnesses in subsequent criminal or civil cases except in situations where it could be shown that the evidence given at the hearing was inconsistent with the evidence given in the subsequent case, in which case the original evidence could be used in a prosecution for perjury.

Role of the Complainant

The complainant may be represented by a lawyer at the hearing. All witnesses, including complainants, are examined and may be cross-examined, although such examination and cross-examination must be relevant to the issues being considered by the Discipline Committee.

RECBC will have a lawyer in attendance at formal hearings who will be responsible for seeing that all relevant evidence is brought before the Discipline Committee.

Hearing Decision

After submissions, the hearing is concluded and the Discipline Committee will retire to reach a decision. A written decision of the Discipline Committee is usually communicated within 30 days.

Sanctions

The Real Estate Services Act allows the Discipline Committee to impose a range of disciplinary sanctions if it determines that a real estate professional has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

If there is such a finding, section 43(2) of the Real Estate Services Act requires the Discipline Committee to, by order, do one or more of the following:

  • reprimand a licensee;
  • suspend the licensee’s licence for a period of time and/or until specified conditions are met;
  • 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 enroll in and complete a course of study or training pay for enforcement expenses incurred by RECBC
  • pay a disciplinary penalty in an amount of not more than $500,000 in the case of a brokerage or former brokerage, or not more than $250,000 in any other case.

Enforcement Expenses

Enforcement expenses recoverable against a real estate professional by RECBC under the Real Estate Services Act are as follows:

  • for investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator;
  • for an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing
    • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by RECBC; and
    • in any other case, $400/hour;
  • for reasonably necessary legal services:
    • $150/hour for a lawyer regularly employed by RECBC; and
    • in any other case, $400/hour;
    • for disbursements properly incurred in connection with the provision of legal services to RECBC or the Discipline Committee, the actual amount of the disbursements;
  • for each full or partial day of hearing, administrative expenses of:
    • $1,000 for a hearing before a Discipline Committee of one member;
    • $1,500 for a hearing before a Discipline Committee of 3 members; and
    • $2,000 for a hearing before a Discipline Committee of 4 or more members;
  • for each day or partial day that a witness, other than an expert witness, attends a hearing at the request of RECBC or a Discipline Committee, $50;
  • for an expert witness who attends a hearing at the request of RECBC or a Discipline Committee, $400/hour;
  • the reasonable travel and living expenses for a witness or expert witness who attends a hearing at the request of RECBC or a Discipline Committee;
  • for other expenses, reasonably incurred, arising out of a hearing or an investigation leading up to a hearing, the actual amount incurred.

Special Compensation Fund

If a consumer has entrusted money to a real estate professional or an unlicensed individual acting on behalf of a brokerage and that money has been misappropriated or wrongfully converted, intentionally not paid over or accounted for, or obtained by the fraud of that licensee or individual, the consumer may wish to make a claim against the Real Estate Special Compensation Fund.

Find more information about the Special Compensation Fund

Appeal Process

A real estate professional affected by a decision of RECBC or a Discipline Committee may appeal that decision by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Financial Services Tribunal (FST) within 30 days of the date of the decision, together with the FST appeal fee of $850.

Complete instructions on filing a Notice of Appeal are available from the Financial Services Tribunal  — will open in a new tab.

Call: 250-387-3464

By Mail: Financial Services Tribunal, PO Box 9425 Stn Prov Govt. Victoria BC V8W 9V1.

Judicial Review

There is no appeal from a decision by Council Staff to close a complaint under the Real Estate Services Act. A complainant that is not satisfied with the decision of Council Staff to close a complaint may wish to seek legal advice as to whether they may pursue a review of that decision under the Judicial Review Procedure Act.

Please note, Council Staff cannot provide legal advice or assistance with respect to an application pursuant to the Judicial Review Procedure Act.

Office of the Ombudsperson

A consumer who believes that RECBC’s investigation or discipline process has not dealt fairly with their complaint may contact the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Call:  1-800-567-3247 

By mail: 947 Fort Street, PO Box 9039 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC V8W 9A5

Email: [email protected]

Online:  www.bcombudsperson.ca  — will open in a new tab