RECBC Makes the Complaints Process More Efficient
Since April 1, 2018, RECBC has received over 700 complaints. By the end of our fiscal year on March 31, we expect that number will be close to 1000, if not higher.
Compare that to the total number of complaints received just three years ago – 536 – and you can begin to understand the challenges that RECBC’s investigators and prosecutors face. Not only has the volume of complaints increased, the complexity of many of the cases under investigation has also increased. And so too has the time it takes to conduct an investigation.
Here is what one licensee told us recently, after receiving notice that a complaint against him/her had been dismissed, “It took a long time, but you must be busy. I was not really worried about it as the complaint had no basis but an update would have been appreciated. No worries though! You are probably understaffed and I did hear there were an unusual amount of complaints last year!”
We’re glad this licensee was so philosophical about the length of time to investigate the complaint, but we know that’s not the case for many. Investigations need to be fair and thorough, but they also need to be efficient. And we want you to know, we’re working hard to increase the efficiency of our processes, and decrease the amount of time that licensees and complainants have to wait for an outcome.
RECBC’s new Director of Legal Services and Compliance, David Avren, and new Manager of Compliance, Michael Scott are determined to explore opportunities to resolve complaint files faster. “We have an obligation to investigate in the public interest,” notes David. “And it is in the public interest for investigations and discipline processes to be timely. It is stressful for everyone to have to wait months or in some cases years for an outcome.”
So what are we doing to improve the timelines for investigations and discipline?
There are changes in place already at RECBC to streamline the investigation process – like ensuring that complainants are contacted as soon as possible, and at regular intervals throughout the process. By improving our communications with participants, we’re making sure that they understand RECBC’s role and what to expect in the investigative process. When delays happen, we’ll explain why, to help reduce participants’ frustration.
At their most recent meeting, Council members reviewed changes to the Complaints process that will mean in many cases investigation files can proceed with staff approval to the legal department. Until now, all investigation files had to be reviewed by a Complaints Committee – a requirement that contributed to delays in many cases.
As well, we’ve made our discipline processes more transparent, by publishing Sanction Guidelines that explain the basis for penalties. And we’ve begun introducing alternatives to disciplinary hearings, such as settlement conferences. In the months ahead, we hope to introduce more new measures: conduct reviews and early resolution alternatives. We will also be working with the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate and the Ministry of Finance to explore expanding the kinds of infractions for which we can impose administrative penalties.
Measures like these, for cases of low public risk, will strengthen our ability to focus resources on more complex investigations of serious misconduct. And they’ll allow us to impose penalties that are better suited to the misconduct and the circumstances.
All the changes – those in progress and those still being planned – have a common goal: to ensure that the interests of BC real estate consumers are protected. Because fair, effective and timely enforcement leads to consumer confidence.