Personal Office Guidelines

Guidelines
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  • Guidelines

    BCFSA’s Guidelines provide a practical application of the information and give suggested best practice guidance to assist real estate professionals. These guidelines provide BCFSA’s interpretation of RESA and all other applicable legislation.

    In addition, BCFSA’s Guidelines may be a useful information source for the general public looking for information about standards of conduct for real estate professionals.

Purpose

This guideline explains some key differences between personal offices and branch offices, including advertising requirements for personal offices.

The guideline also explains some key differences between personal offices and branch offices as it relates to the activities that can be carried out.

  1. Personal offices are not branch offices.
  2. Personal real estate corporations and personal offices.
  3. Advertising consideration.

Guidelines

Personal Offices Are Not Branch Offices

Personal offices are offices that are not licensed and could be any office outside of the head or branch office (e.g. a home office or rented commercial space); personal offices cannot contain advertising that may indicate real estate services are being provided from the location. The real estate professional working from a personal office may have a secretary or other unlicensed staff who may work at the office but they may not engage in any activity requiring a real estate license.

By comparison, a branch office is a licensed office that can display advertisements indicating real estate services may be provided from the location, and must have a qualified individual to act as the managing broker. The managing broker is required to be actively engaged in the office and provide an adequate level of supervision for the office location(s) and is responsible for all related real estate professionals of the office(s). Unlike a personal office, real estate professionals licensed to that office may advertise its address.

Personal Real Estate Corporations and Personal Offices

Per the Real Estate Services Rules (“Rules”), if BCFSA grants you a licence for your personal real estate corporation, you are only permitted to advertise in the name of that corporation. This means that if your corporation is named ‘John Smith Personal Real Estate Corporation’, this name must appear on all real estate advertising. Advertising as ‘John Smith’ would not be permitted.

The Real Estate Services Rules surrounding personal real estate corporations create a conflict with the policies around permitted signage for a personal office. Signage for a personal office cannot indicate that any real estate services are being provided, and so using the full Personal Real Estate Corporation name (John Smith Personal Real Estate Corporation) outside of a personal office would not be allowed, as it would indicate that real estate services are being provided from this location. In this case, any signage on a personal office would only be able to state ‘John Smith’s Office’. The reason this signage would be allowed in this situation relates to the fact that personal office signage is not considered advertising real estate services.

Personal office signage that includes only the licensee’s name is not considered to be real estate advertising and therefore the requirement to include the full name of the personal real estate corporation does not apply.

Visit Personal Real Estate Corporations for more information.

Advertising Considerations

It is important to remember that advertising is not restricted to print ads such as those in newspapers, magazines or ads sent via mail. Radio, television, and online advertisements, along with all social media soliciting clients and offering real estate services are also considered advertisements.

If your real estate advertising contains an address, you must ensure that the address is the address of your brokerage. You are permitted to use your personal phone number as long as you are not answering the phone in the name of the brokerage.

Visit Advertising Information for more information.

Relevant Cases

Case #1: Website and Signage Relating to Unlicensed Office; Unlicensed Branch Office

The strata management division of a brokerage was operated by two licensees of the brokerage from an office that was not a licensed branch office of the brokerage. The licensees’ website included the address and separate telephone number of the unlicensed office. A sign setting out an unauthorized team name of the licensees was placed outside the unlicensed office. The managing broker of the brokerage was found to have failed to adequately supervise the licensees in that he allowed them to provide real estate services and advertise those services through an office that was not licensed as a branch office, among other things.

Contraventions: Sections 3(1)(a) [Requirement for licence to provide real estate services] and 5(4) Licence levels and categories] of RESA and sections 37 [Restrictions relating to home and other personal offices] and 40 [Restrictions and requirements related to advertising generally] of the Real Estate Services Rules, among others

Read the full case

Case #2: Business Cards and Signage and Relating to Personal Office

The licensee permitted signage at his personal office which suggested that real estate services were being provided and promoted this office on his brokerage business cards.

Contraventions: Section 37 [Restrictions relating to home and other personal offices] of the Real Estate Services Rules

Read the full case

Managing Broker Considerations

As part of your obligation to supervise the conduct of your real estate professionals, it is important to know who is working out of the brokerage or branch office and who has set up a personal office. Visiting your real estate professional’s personal offices to ensure they are compliant with the Real Estate Services Rules would also be prudent.

Many real estate professionals are unclear as to the differences between personal offices which are not licensed and branch offices which are. A robust policies and procedures manual outlining the obligations of any real estate professional operating from a personal office would ensure clear understanding of the Real Estate Services Rules. These policies should include the requirement that all documents required to be delivered to the brokerage are not retained at the personal office. Your manual should also explain the requirement that all monies collected in respect of real estate services should be immediately delivered to the brokerage so they can be deposited into the brokerage trust account. Failing to do either could result in discipline against the real estate professional and brokerage due to the consumer risks associated with such conduct.

Finally, reviewing all brokerage advertising, including those being created by real estate professionals with personal offices is important. The brokerage name and address must appear on all advertisements and agents are prohibited from advertising the address of the personal office on all print, radio/television, and social media advertising.

Applicable Section of RESA/Real Estate Services Regulation/Real Estate Services Rules

  1. Section 27, Real Estate Services Act, Payment into trust account
  2. Section 37, Real Estate Services Rules, Restrictions relating to home and other personal offices

Definitions

Personal office: in relation to a licensee means an office from which the licensee provides real estate services, other than a related brokerage office, and includes an office that is in the residence of the licensee or any other person.

Personal real estate corporation: means a corporation that is licensed in accordance with the Regulation.