The discovery that you are the subject of a complaint to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) can be an intimidating experience.
That’s why the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) created a service to help Ontario REALTORS® navigate the process of handling a complaint to RECO.
Members who are the subject of a RECO complaint can speak with Diana Russo, a lawyer in OREA’s legal department, to learn more and get information about the RECO complaints and discipline process.
“We realize that finding yourself on the receiving end of a RECO complaint can be stressful,” says Russo. “Our role is to serve our members, and so we’ve put in place a service that provides information and helps you to understand the process as much as possible.”
Since the inception of the service three years ago, OREA has received more than 325 queries. As well, OREA has organized seven information sessions for members across the province, with about 250 people attending. Recently, the legal department gathered up some frequently-asked questions and offers tips to help members through RECO’s investigative and adjudicative process.
Q: What should I do if I have received a complaint?
A: First and foremost, stay as calm as possible and ensure that you read and thoroughly understand the contents of the complaint. Second, your broker of record will receive copies of any complaints, so schedule time to meet with him or her and discuss the circumstances that led to the complaint.
Q: What happens after I file my response to RECO? How long will the process take?
A: There is no set timeline or typical duration for the complaints process. After you file your response, numerous factors may affect the speed of the process, including the nature and complexity of the matter. Nevertheless, you will be advised of the next steps and you may follow up with the RECO complaints officer assigned to your file.
Q: What are the penalties following a complaint?
A: A range of outcomes is possible. Sometimes the file will close with no further action required. At other times, the matter may proceed to a pre-hearing or hearing. At the hearing, a registrant may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $25,000, take educational courses or pay costs. Visit the RECO website at www.reco.on.ca and click on “Complaints and Enforcement” and then on "If you are the subject of a complaint".
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Tips for OREA Members:
- If you receive a complaint from the Office of the Registrar, take it seriously and respond to it fully. This may be your only opportunity to defend yourself during the process.
- Be prepared, give yourself time to respond, and ensure that you gather all relevant paperwork and contacts that will assist with your response to the Registrar and in defending the complaint.
- OREA strongly recommends that you consult with your broker of record and independent legal counsel before you respond to the complaint.
- Pay strict attention to timelines and due dates. Make note of the deadline to respond to the Registrar, any scheduled pre-hearings or hearing dates. During these stressful times, it is easy to forget or mix up the dates.
- As difficult as it may be, try to remain professional at all times throughout the discipline and complaints process.
If you are an OREA member who is the subject of a RECO complaint or you want more information about this service, contact Diana Russo at email@example.com.
Story by Mary Ann Gratton
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