Are you facing a misconduct claim as a real estate professional?
On behalf of Neuberger & Partners LLP posted in Professional Discipline on Wednesday November 22, 2017.
If you are a real estate professional in Ontario, society will hold you to a high standard of professional conduct. Your investment into qualifying for and practising your profession can be in jeopardy in the event of allegations of misconduct. If you do not handle such charges appropriately, damage to your reputation might have long-term consequences.
The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) regulates the real estate industry on behalf of the Ontario government. Real estate brokerages and agents must comply with provincial legislation and regulations.
What are your rights?
Accusations of professional misconduct will naturally be stressful, and although you must take any complaint seriously, keep in mind that it is, at the outset, only an allegation. RECO will not make assumptions or determinations without a thorough investigation to determine the merits of the accusations against you. The complaints process aims to be fair, and you have the following rights:
- You must receive detailed notice of the complaint with the opportunity to respond.
- Authorities must deal with the accusations in an unbiased and timely manner.
- You can choose to have legal representation.
- You are entitled to seek a written record of the decision and any action taken by RECO.
What must you do after receiving a notice of a complaint?
Upon receiving notification of an investigation into misconduct allegations, you may discuss the complaint with your legal counsel who can help you with the following:
- By law, you must respond in writing to RECO within a particular time. Include as much information as possible – along with documented proof and supporting information. You may include any documents that will help your case.
- Attend any requested interview as a part of the enquiry.
- If you have the details of any witnesses to the events that brought about the allegations, you may provide their names and contact information.
- It is always wise to retain original documents and to send copies of all substantiating documents with your response to RECO.
What could be the outcome?
RECO will review your response along with your documents and other information investigators gathered before reaching a decision. You will receive written notice of the outcome, which might be any of the following:
- RECO may decide to take no action if there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations of professional misconduct, or if it does not fall within its authority.
- RECO may take administrative action that might include a warning, an order to attend a training course or a requirement to take corrective action such as to correct noncompliant advertising.
- RECO may pursue a disciplinary hearing or choose to prosecute you in provincial court.
- In a severe case, RECO may determine that your registration as a real estate professional must be suspended or revoked.
Who can provide support and guidance?
As noted above, you have the right to legal counsel. By retaining the services of a lawyer who has experience in dealing with cases involving professional misconduct allegations in Ontario, you could receive much-needed support with the administrative requirements and any legal procedures that may ensue. A lawyer can create a strategic defence aimed at achieving the best possible outcome.