June 19th - 2017

Legal Forum reaches a milestone

Legal Forum, the popular online resource for Ontario REALTORS®, has answered its 6,000th question. This unique online service has been helping you for 17 years.

Legal Forum, the popular online resource for Ontario REALTORS®, has answered its 6,000th question. This unique online service has been helping you for 17 years.

Legal Forum, the popular online resource for Ontario’s REALTORS®, has answered its 6,000th question.

Launched in 1999, Legal Forum is a unique online service offered by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). Members of OREA from across the province can submit a general question about real estate law, REBBA requirements, ethics and many other REALTOR® compliance issues and receive a response from a legal expert at no charge. The Legal Forum section is one of the most popular features on OREA’s website.

“The question-and-answer format of Legal Forum provides us with a wonderful teaching platform,” says Judy Faulkner of Ottawa, who has been a Realtor for 35 years and a brokerage owner for 17. “Because it is anonymous, it means Realtors who might fear they are asking a ‘stupid question’ need not be concerned. All questions are answered respectfully.”

“Legal Forum is a fantastic resource,” adds REALTOR® Sean Morrison of Hamilton, also a member of OREA’s board of directors. “Merv’s analysis of everyday situations that agents face provides valuable insight and helps to strengthen our profession.”

Responses are compiled and reviewed through the OREA legal department, under the guidance of real estate lawyer Merv Burgard, Q.C., and former OREA general counsel Charlotte Sloan, who have been working together on Legal Forum for 17 years.

At the request of OREA, Burgard established the service and has supplied answers to all of the 6,000-plus questions. Burgard is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, a member of the Ontario bar for 45 years, and a regular contributor to many real estate publications. Sloan is now in private practice. A gold medalist from the University of Western Ontario Law School and member of the Ontario bar for 35 years, Sloan edits and manages the questions and answers on the Forum.

This resource offers legal and compliance perspectives on real estate situations that Ontario REALTORS® 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. The 6,000th question arrived in May of this year.

The organization of questions and answers by topic saves REALTORS® a great deal of time, says Faulkner. “Merv’s knowledge of contract and agency law, along with his intimate understanding of our code of ethics, has been invaluable,” she adds. “The questions encourage discussion, and the learned responses, in many cases supported by references, help settle squabbles. Legal Forum has been my ‘go-to’ source for these questions. I honestly don’t know how I would have managed without having access to this resource.”

Burgard recalls that two senior members of OREA’s management, Bob McLean and Don Richardson, agreed on the concept of creating a new online resource for OREA members. “Legal Forum has been a go-to place for information on various topics and current issues of concern,” says Burgard.

“I continue to be proud of the positive feedback and success of my involvement in what those senior managers envisaged,” Burgard says. “The general answers to questions have been viewed not only by the questioner but also by other members doing research for their own, similar issues.”

The magnitude and success of this service are astonishing, says Sloan. “Who would have ever imagined, when Legal Forum was created in 1999, that it would still be going strong, 17 years and 6,000 questions later? That’s a testament to the continued interest in Legal Forum by Ontario’s Realtors, to OREA’s sustained commitment to providing this valuable resource to its members, and to Merv’s remarkable ability to provide direction and guidance about so many topics and issues in a short, succinct manner.”

The topic and sub-topic that have garnered the most questions over the years relate to commission, entitlement and collections. “Although some topics are more popular when there are new developments in the law, codes, policies or procedures, the problems and concerns around commission collections are pretty constant,” says Sloan.

Asked what she likes best about Legal Forum, Sloan notes that “from my point of view, it’s being able to spot the trends of what is of concern to Ontario’s Realtors. I am also amazed at the variety and breadth of the issues and concerns articulated by the members in their questions.”

With 6,000 questions in the Legal Forum bank, “there are a number of issues that Merv has addressed many times, so it is sometimes a challenge to decide whether to simply refer the member to several prior Q & As that address his or her concern, or whether the new question warrants an updated version of the answer that should be posted in Legal Forum.”

Legal Forum often drives members to other material, says Burgard. “I often refer our members to not only other questions and answers in Legal Forum but also to other resources on the OREA website such as Standard Forms and Clauses, Government Relations information, EDGE newsletter articles, Legal Resource Materials, and the extensive articles in OREApedia,” he says. “External information from CREA, RECO and the provincial government have also been helpful.”

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 at www.orea.com 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.

Story by Mary Ann Gratton

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