An arrow shaped red "Home For Sale" sign in front of a suburban 2-story home. The green grass and blue sky is visible in the background.

When less is more

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

In case you’ve been under a rock the last few months, I wanted to let you know about our campaign to eliminate all illegal signage. What constitutes illegal signage? Let me explain.

Signage is advertising. CREA, Boards and Council all have rules that apply, and you are expected to know what those rules are. All cities and municipalities have sign by-laws. You are also expected to know and conform to these by-laws. If your signage is offside industry rules or local municipal by-laws you will be at risk of discipline. The last few fines for these sorts of infractions were in the $5,000 to $7,500 range. In the last couple of days, I have received about a half a dozen new complaints for the same things and notices will be going out to those individuals.

The things we are particularly looking at are signage that doesn’t conform with municipal by-laws, such as directional arrows and any signs on city property (which are virtually all illegal), the prominent display of a brokerage name in any form of advertising and any performance claims or promises like, “I’m #1” and “If I don’t sell your house in 30 days I’ll buy it.” However, all complaints that come to us will be looked at in terms of all the rules that apply.

Let’s be really clear, virtually all directional arrows are illegal. Stop using them. Period. Now. If you don’t, you will be subject to a complaint. Please, go out and gather your signs and throw them away. Explain to your clients that, yes we’ve used these signs for years but they are illegal, and we are stopping as of right now. All of us. The reality is, if someone wants to find a home listed for sale in a particular neighbourhood, they’ll find it, regardless of whether you have a sign up or not.

Illegal signs, in all their many forms, are one of the things that reflect badly on us in the public eye. It’s like sign pollution out there. The public does not appreciate us littering the corners and telephone poles with our advertising. They think we are arrogant, inconsiderate, selfish and that we knowingly thumb our noses at the laws because it suits our purposes. This is not the image we are trying to portray and it’s not who most of us really are.

And heads up! As soon as we get a grip on signage advertising, we are going to shift our focus to online advertising and all forms of social media so you may want to look at your web presence because a huge percentage is offside one way or another. Council has some fabulous material to help you in the online version of the Professional Standards Manual and we are working to update our materials as well.

Please, don’t wait for a complaint. Go now, take the signs down if they are offside in any way, be responsible and be professional.

Thank you.