June 11th - 2012

Legal Forum reaches a milestone

Image of scales of justiceLegal Forum, one of the most popular features on the Ontario Real Estate Association’s website, has received its 5,000th question.

Image of scales of justiceLegal Forum, one of the most popular features on the Ontario Real Estate Association’s  website, has received its 5,000th question.

The unique online service reached this significant milestone recently. Legal Forum is a resource which enables members to submit general questions online about real estate and ethics and receive answers from a legal expert at no charge to them.

This resource offers legal perspectives on real estate situations that professionals encounter in the field, although it does not provide legal advice or opinions, nor does it deal with specific situations. Four to five questions are usually submitted each week.

Legal Forum was created about 12 years ago and has been administered through the OREA legal department since then. Merv Burgard, Q.C., was the lawyer who first established the column and he continues to supply answers to the questions. Burgard is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, a member of the Ontario bar for more than 40 years, and a regular contributor to many real estate publications. He has answered all 5,000 of the questions.

“Legal Forum is incredibly helpful,” says Jack Fusco, a Richmond Hill broker. “As the manager of a large office, I have relied on Merv’s assistance for many years and it helps me to do my job better.”

Elaine O’Hara, executive officer of the Quinte & District Association of REALTORS®, describes Legal Forum as a great service and educational tool that she employs regularly. “I’ve used it several times to ask a question, but I also like to check out the Recently Asked Questions.”

Reviewing new content helps her understand the concerns and challenges faced by real estate professionals, says O’Hara. “The questions covered in there are issues that our members deal with in the course of business every day, and I like the fact that this resource is offered to us for free.”

The section on Recently Asked Questions is particularly useful, says O’Hara, who advises members to check it regularly. “I like the new format because the response pops right up after you click on the question, and there’s a great assortment of categories to choose from.”

A wealth of information is available to members on Legal Forum. It is an excellent companion to the OREApedia service and to articles in the REALTOR® EDGE newsletter as well as a vehicle to direct members to other information sources, she adds.

Burgard notes that “One of my favorite things about Legal Forum is that it gives me the chance to interact with REALTORS® who are eager to further their search for answers to help their clients. I often hear that members find it informative, challenging and timely.”

Limited service listings are a frequent topic of inquiry at the moment, he says. “This timely issue is obviously creating challenges for listing REALTORS® as well as for co-operating brokerages, as noted in several questions on the forum.”

Lawyer Charlotte Sloan is also involved with Legal Forum. She served as general counsel and chief privacy officer at OREA, and is now in private practice. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s Law School and member of the Ontario bar for 30 years, Sloan edits and manages the questions and answers on Forum.

“It has been my great privilege to work so closely with Merv on Legal Forum for all of these years,” she says. “He has the innate ability to deal with both the legal and practical aspects of an issue in a short and concise response. That’s quite a rarity among lawyers -- and I'm sure it's much appreciated by the members."

Ron Merkley of Brockville, Ont., was president of OREA when the Forum was first launched in the new millennium. “It all started when members asked us to provide them with more legal information,” recalls Merkley.

The idea came up after the association conducted a survey on the communication needs of members. “We thought it would be great to provide our members with general legal information presented in an easy-to-use, online format,” he says.

The immense popularity of the service was surprising, he says. “It started slowly at first, but once it caught on, the number of questions we received each year doubled in comparison to the early years,” adds Merkley.

The feedback from members was overwhelmingly positive from the start, he says. “For us to be able to obtain legal information without having to pay for it is a terrific resource that OREA provides,” he says. “It really gives value to our members.” 

According to Merkley, the big issue when Legal Forum was first launched was Dual Agency -- now called Multiple Representation. This occurs when a brokerage represents both buyer and seller (or more than one buyer) as clients in the same transaction. Over the years, the column has addressed hundreds of questions about many different – and often complex – aspects of representation.

Questions about forms, clauses, interpretations of REBBA and the REBBA Code, and suggested best business practices also frequently appear on the site. “Members highlight real-life situations that I enjoy dealing with in the modern business atmosphere,” says Burgard. “I never get bored with it, because the most popular questions change all the time, depending on the big issues of the day.”

The information provided in Legal Forum is not to be relied upon or construed as legal and/or real estate advice or opinion. It should not be used as a substitute for professional consultation. OREA members are urged to seek legal advice on specific issues affecting them.

To see Legal Forum, visit the OREA website and click on Legal Forum in the Resources box on the home page. You will need to go through the Members section. You can view issues by topic, and The Recently Asked Questions can be viewed from the Quick Links box. To submit a question, include your first name and email address and type your question into the space indicated. You will be notified when your question and the response are posted. Questions and answers are initially posted in both the Recently Asked Questions area and under the appropriate topic and sub-topic. 

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246