90-plus days in: Regulators are listening

The last three and a half months have been challenging for real estate licensees in BC and confusing for many consumers and that message appears to be getting through to BC’s real estate regulators.

Since the new agency and disclosure Rules came into effect in BC on June 15, Council and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) have been soliciting and analyzing feedback from the industry and members of the public.  They’ve surveyed licensees and consumers, consulted with stakeholders and have held multiple roundtable discussions with managing brokers from around the province. Council has also been tracking all complaints, anonymous tips, calls, and emails they’ve received since implementation.

The input is being compiled in a 90-day post-implementation report to be submitted by Council to the Office of the Superintendent before the end of the year. It will be shared with the industry and the public.

Based on recent remarks by Council EO, Erin Seeley and Superintendent, Michael Noseworthy, the regulators recognize there have been significant impacts and they’re committed to working with the industry to try to make the situation better before introducing new changes.

At BCREA’s managing broker conference on September 19, Seeley talked about what’s required of licensees in this new and more demanding environment, “There’s a need for more professional judgment. There’s a need for a more thoughtful, thorough, consultative approach with clients and we recognize that to meet these new demands, there’s a need for more resources from us.”

She shared highlights from Council’s 14 roundtable discussions with industry members, noting many common themes no matter where in the province they were from. In both urban and rural markets, licensees requested more:

  • licensee training and education
  • support for managing brokers
  • form changes to streamline content and change the wording and tone to balance the mandate to protect consumers, yet guide licensees
  • awareness and addressing of the unintended consequences of the new rules i.e. unrepresented parties and administrative burden on brokerages
  • consumer education

Seeley announced to the roomful of 250 managing brokers and organized real estate staff that Council’s consumer education campaign will be ready to roll out late fall of this year. It will include consumer-facing videos, fact sheets with infographics and digital and social media content.

She reiterated that although the intent of the new rules is to enhance consumer protection, how Council achieves that is through a two-pronged focus, “The proactive side of regulation through education and pre-licensing and the oversight side with investigations and penalties.”

Regarding support for managing brokers, Michael Noseworthy spoke at length at how the current regulatory framework places significant responsibility and liability on managing brokers.

The Superintendent observed, “You’re responsible for supervision, brokerage records and operations, compliance of regulatory requirements. You’re a teacher, mentor, advisor, and often a senior sales person.

“We recognize that fewer and fewer licensees are interested in becoming managing brokers and we need to understand, what does this mean for the regulatory environment in the future?”

Noseworthy said that the impact of the new rules on managing broker oversight is one of the reasons why the OSRE does not intend to introduce any new rules in the immediate future. First, they want to examine the entire regulatory framework, including an examination of how the most recent changes are affecting brokers’ ability to meet their regulatory duties and foster professionalism. “We need to look at the bigger picture and assess the fundamentals before we get into solutions.”

The OSRE just wrapped up an online managing broker survey and intends further licensee engagement and consultation over the next few months. The goal is to release a white paper report with findings and recommendations in summer/fall 2019, with the intent to draft additional new rules at a later date.

To contact the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate, email RealEstate@gov.bc.ca or call toll free 1-855-999-1883.