August 10th - 2010

Dealing with the complaints process

What if a complaint is filed against you with the Registrar? What can you expect? How long is the process going to take?

What if a complaint is filed against you with the Registrar? What can you expect? How long is the process going to take? The process can be intimidating, so it’s best to go in knowing something about it.

Under REBBA 2002, complaints and concerns, including those dealing with the Code of Ethics, will be dealt with through the Registrar's Complaints and Inquiries (RCI) Process. RECO’s online guide to REBBA 2002 says that if a complaint is received about a registrant, the Registrar may request information in relation to the complaint from any registrant. Registrants are obligated to provide such information as soon as is practicable after receiving a written request.

RECO says that the majority of Code of Ethics complaints are now received via email. Emails are usually either responded to or acknowledged within 48 hours. All complaints received are then assigned to a file coordinator and compliance officer who sends out a “permission to share” form to the complainant. This process takes seven to 14 days. Permission to share forms, if returned, typically reach RECO within 10 days, at which time the nature of the complaint is sent to the registrant within about five days for response, which is due within 30 days.

So, if a complaint is filed against you, you will know about it within 30 days, and will have the same amount of time to respond.

The time involved
RECO has indicated that the majority of complaints are simple in nature, and a decision is made usually within 60 to 90 days after the response is received. Other complaints are more complicated in nature, and a decision is made usually within six to eight months after the response is received. Fewer complaints, characterized as complicated, can require nine to10 months to reach a decision. In rare cases, the complaint moves to a discipline hearing, in which case it can take over 12 months to come to a hearing. Only 9 complaints resulted in a discipline hearing in the fiscal year from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Before disposing of a concern (including a complaint), the Registrar will determine if the inquiry process is reasonably complete and, if not, specific directions are provided regarding what further inquiry should be attempted.

Where to look for help
The above is just a brief overview of what is involved. More information can be found on the RECO website at under the Complaints and Enforcement tab which outlines some of the process if you are the subject of a complaint.

REALTORS® can also check out several OREA resources. OREA offers the Legal Pamphlet “Resources to Assist REALTORS® when Dealing with the Registrar’s Complaints and Inquiries Process,” available on The pamphlet can help guide REALTORS® and their lawyers to the appropriate resources – of which there are many on RECO’s site. Prior discipline decisions are also available on the RECO website.

OREA Continuing Education courses help REALTORS® learn about the various aspects of the REBBA Code of Ethics. Relevant courses include The Code of Ethics under REBBA and Risk and Liability Reduction both offered in class through the real estate boards, or online at

Since representation disclosure and practices arise in a significant percentage of the complaints dealt with by the Registrar, REALTORS® are also encouraged to take one of OREA’s agency courses, such as Agency Practice.

Other sources include Legal Forum on the OREA website and OREApedia topics focusing on REBBA requirements such as Advertising – Other REBBA Requirements and Commission – REBBA Obligations and Restrictions.

Some complaint statistics
Here is a summary of complaint statistics RECO provided for the period of April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010. During the fiscal year 1,312 complaint files were opened and 1,150 files were closed (not necessarily related). Highlights of the files closed include:

  • 393 involving administrative action
  • 307 closed because no permission to share was returned from complainant
  • 413 with no administrative action.

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