Amid the growing population of realtors operating in the Metro Vancouver area, various organizations and independent entities have petitioned B.C. authorities to enact tighter industry regulation and more severe punishments for fraudulent real estate professionals.
The calls came in the wake of the provincial government’s renewed drive to crack down on unscrupulous industry practices, including so-called “shadow flipping”—where a sales contract is reassigned to multiple potential buyers before the conclusion of a transaction—and sales methods aimed at evading goods and services taxes.
Figures released to The Globe and Mail
earlier this week said that as of this January, at least 12,447 realtors are operating in the Greater Vancouver area. Meanwhile, enrolment in the University of British Columbia’s real estate courses reached a record high of 4,619 students in the 2014-15 school year.
Industry professionals said that the time is ripe for the Real Estate Council of B.C. to take stronger action to maintain the sector’s reputation.
“As a self-regulatory organization they should really put suspensions in place and make an example of people – and they don’t do that. They really don’t,” Maxxus International Real Estate Group realtor and 25-year industry veteran Christopher Hughes said.
“[The agents] made maybe $50,000 or $100,000 and they get nothing for a fine. You can build that into your business model. ‘OK, I’m going to get suspended for seven days. So what?’” Hughes stated.
Remax agent Keith Roy concurred, adding that larger fines would be an effective deterrent. “That would scare realtors from engaging in unethical behaviour” he said.
In response to these calls, the Council said that it would always take accusations of fraud seriously, while maintaining that its current penalties are sufficient.
“I think most people if they were suspended without pay for their source of employment, it is considered serious,” Council professional standards adviser Maureen Coleman said.