Top Tips for Preventing Consumer Complaints
Q: What can I do to help make sure I don’t end up with unhappy clients who may file a complaint about me with the Council?
A: There are simple, proactive steps you can take to avoid becoming the subject of a complaint.
1. Communicate clearly, early and often
Make sure your clients understand what to expect from you. Complaints can happen because of a gap between a client’s expectations of the services that are to be provided and those that are delivered.
At the start of your relationship with a real estate consumer, you must clearly describe the scope and limitations of the services you can provide and the client’s obligations. Remember — unless modified, all of the duties to clients described in section 3-3(1) of the Rules apply.
2. Standardize your processes and procedures
Run your business like a business. Use standardized processes and checklists to help ensure that mistakes don’t happen and crucial steps aren’t missed because things get busy or you’re in a rush.
The Real Estate Services Act and Rules require that you demonstrate competence and apply reasonable care and skill in all the services you provide.
3. Remember who you work for
The answer is not “myself.” You work for your clients and must act in their best interests. You must avoiding all conflicts with your clients’ interests. If a conflict arises, you must promptly and fully disclose the conflict to your client, and follow their instructions.
4. Disclose all material information and use reasonable efforts to discover relevant facts
Licensees must disclose all material information about the real estate services, the real estate and the trade to which the services relate to their clients. It is not up to you to decide what your clients need or want to know – you must disclose everything you know.
If there is information you don’t have, that you know would affect your clients’ decisions, you must make efforts to gather and confirm the facts from reliable sources.
5. There is no such thing as a “private deal” for licensees
Whenever you are involved in buying, selling, renting or leasing property, even if you are providing your services for free to a friend or relative, or for yourself, the Real Estate Services Act applies to you. Rental property management, even if done for free or as a favour, is a real estate service.
As a real estate licensee, you can only provide real estate services in the name of your related brokerage. You must deliver all trade records and disclosures to your brokerage. You can only be paid through and on behalf of the brokerage with which you are licensed.
6. Deal appropriately with your clients’ concerns
By taking a proactive approach to issues as they arise in the course of your daily business you can avoid potential complaints and ensure your clients are satisfied and protected. Listen to your clients’ concerns and try to see the situation from their point of view. Clearly outline the steps you will take to try and resolve their concerns.
Mistakes happen. Communications sometimes break down. Your clients may become anxious when faced with challenging situations or difficult decisions, such as multiple offers or counter-offers. But by dealing with challenges and concerns in a professional, calm, informed fashion you will fulfill your role as a “trusted advisor with special expertise.”
If you’ve got questions about how to manage professional issues, contact the Council’s Professional Standards Advisory service, at [email protected]. An Advisor can provide practice advice and point you to helpful resources.