What can you do when a Realtor behaves badly?

Most people have either had a personal experience or heard an outrageous story about nefarious Realtor conduct or practice.  Our Realtor only Facebook page is full of them and believe me, the Realtor community is furious with this type of behaviour, as it tends to tarnish all in the profession.  Most real estate professionals and brokerages operate fastidiously within the myriad of rules, regulations and policies that govern professional real estate. (more on this later)

But what is a consumer to do?

Consumers have many options they can pursue:

Speak with the offending Realtor directly and try to clear the air or gain some remedy from the perpetrator.
Contact that brokerage manager or Broker of Record (who is in most cases, also the owner)

  • Contact the Ottawa Real Estate Board and lodge a complaint. The Board has its own Discipline Committee and quasi-judicial processes and has recently begun to fine members for a variety of offences under Board rules and MLS® policies.
  • Contact the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) the regulator and licencing authority for real estate in Ontario. RECO has sweeping powers including the ability to levy large* fines, licence suspensions and even criminal charges. *one prominent Ottawa broker was fined over $200,000 several years ago for obstructing a RECO investigation and falsifying records.
  • Contact a lawyer to see if there are grounds for a legal case.

Many, many pieces of legislation affect activities around professional real estate (which is one of the problems) and those with a beef may have a difficult time sorting out who to contact.  If it is a rental matter, then it might be to the Rental Housing Tribunal.  If a privacy matter, the federal Privacy Commission.  Aggressive and unwanted or unauthorized marketing may require a complaint to the Competition Bureau or the CASL (anti-spam) folks whichever Federal Department they may happen to be with.  Real Estate sign issues are a City of Ottawa bylaw matter and so on and so on…

Why it is difficult to curb bad Realtor behaviour:
We mentioned earlier that the core of the Realtor community is furious with the egregious behaviour attributed to some members and one must wonder: “so why isn’t something done about it…why don’t more people complain?

Though many are involved in managing and regulating the profession and many positive steps have been taken, there is still a long way to and any commission sales environment with relatively easy access, high commissions and large numbers of members, will have its share of those who deviate from the overall standards.  The rewards are just too good and the enforcement is often deemed lacking, so some Realtors must say to themselves: why shouldn’t I do what gets me more business and commission?

Barriers to enforcement and complaint resolution:

  • Consumers most often do not want to get involved with a formal or legal complaint which can take a lot of time and energy and possibly money. Most consumers do not even know all the rules, either or more would complain.
  • There are so many bodies and legislation surrounding organized real estate that it is very difficult to identify which rule, regulation or law has been broken and whose jurisdiction a complaint must be filed with.
  • Processes for various organizations are long and involved and often stop complaints before they are even heard. RECO for example, takes consumer complaints very seriously but is not able to manage Realtor complaints on what are considered minor issues, so they defer these mostly back to the originating locale. For example, as a Broker of Record, I cannot refer a discipline matter to RECO unless I have already communicated and discussed the issue with the perpetrators Manager or Broker of Record.
  • There is a bit of a “live-and-let-live” approach to most common Realtor misbehaviour, on the grounds that we have to work with these people in the future, so why spoil the realtor-realtor synergy that may be needed to do a future deal. Also, as one must identify oneself to make a complaint, many can be concerned about potentially “putting a target on their own back”  and are concerned with possible reprisals from the complaint target agent.

We will write about our many “Broker beefs” via broker rant reports, future posts.  We also welcome any notes, questions or comments on things you have seen or wondered about concerning Realtor activity and behaviour.


Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker Oasis
Realty Brokerage Ottawa, Canada
613-435-4692 oasisrealty@rogers.com