September 9th - 2013

First anniversary of service for OREA members

A new service was launched a year ago for members of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) who are the subject of a complaint to the industry’s regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

Diana Russo, OREA Staff Lawyer

A new service was launched a year ago for members of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) who are the subject of a complaint to the industry’s regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

Diana Russo, OREA Staff LawyerSince September 2012, the legal department at OREA has made this resource available to members to help them navigate the sometimes stressful RECO complaints process. On the first anniversary of the new service, The EDGE newsletter sat down with association staff lawyer Diana Russo to learn more.

Q: What services are covered in your position?
A: Members who are the subject of a RECO complaint may speak with me to get legal information on the RECO investigative and adjudicative process. We also offer resources to local real estate boards and their members pertaining to the professional conduct of REALTORS® and RECO’s standards. This is achieved through articles in the EDGE newsletter such as this one, as well as through presentations to local boards. In addition, individual REALTORS® can call or email me with questions about the RECO complaints process.

Q: What services are you asked about that you can’t or aren’t allowed to perform?
A: There are certain limitations to the assistance that I can provide for our members. For example, some members call to ask whether I can attend the RECO hearing or even liaise with RECO on their behalf.  Unfortunately, I can’t represent members at RECO disciplinary hearings or liaise with RECO on their behalf. I can’t provide legal advice, but I can help them procedurally and I can give them specific tools and resources that may be relevant to their complaint.

Q: What can happen to a member who is subject to a RECO complaint?
A:
In the event that a complaint is filed, a range of outcomes is possible. RECO has published a brochure, A guide for registrants: If you are the subject of a complaint. This brochure outlines the processes in greater detail. Sometimes, no further action is taken. That may mean that the file is closed, the complaint is without merit, or that the matter is outside of RECO’s jurisdiction. A complaint that involves the Code of Ethics can go all the way to a disciplinary hearing where a registrant may be ordered to pay a fine up to $25,000, take educational courses or have a cost award imposed on them. Beyond disciplinary hearings, a range of other sanctions exists. As described in the brochure, these include the Registrar attempting to mediate or resolve a complaint or warning a registrant about the conduct outlined in the complaint. Our service focuses primarily on assisting members with RECO complaints and disciplinary hearings. However, the Registrar also deals with licensing matters and may attach conditions, revoke or refuse to renew a license. In a few cases, the Registrar also may appoint investigators to conduct investigations. At this time, these matters are beyond the scope of the new OREA service.

Q: Which aspects are the most time consuming?
A: Each call or query is given an equal amount of time and effort. However, depending on the nature and degree of complexity with the complaint or issues in dispute, some inquiries require more time. We assess each complaint according to the facts and circumstances, so each call presents its own unique challenges.

Person pondering which direction to goQ: How many inquiries have come in over the past year? 
A: To date we’ve received more than 100 inquiries from members involved in the RECO complaints process. Sometimes our members have just received a complaint and aren’t sure how to respond, while others have already filed their materials with RECO and want to know what to do next. I receive calls at various stages of the complaints and disciplinary process. 

Q: What would you like to tell REALTORS®?
A:
This is a complimentary service for our members and a new initiative by OREA that can save you time and work, so take advantage of it! In law school, I learned that it isn’t always about how hard you work, but how smart you work. If you’re the subject of a RECO complaint and choose to represent yourself, or even if you plan to retain a lawyer to deal with the complaints process, our service is easily accessible and can be a great starting point for what to expect.

If you are an OREA member who is the subject of a RECO complaint or you would like to get more information on this service, contact Diana Russo at (416) 385-6626 or 1-800-265-6732 ext. 626 or at dianar@orea.com.

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246