Complaint & Discipline Procedures

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BCFSA has authority under the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, and Real Estate Services Rules to investigate the conduct and competence of licensees.  

Here you will find information on BCFSA’s administrative, regulatory and discipline procedures to assist complainants and licensees who are responding to complaints. BCFSA’s goal is to ensure that all administrative, regulatory and discipline processes relating to professional conduct are handled in a uniform and fair manner. 

  • BCFSA is a crown agency established by the provincial government. Its mandate includes protecting the public by enforcing the licensing and licensee conduct requirements of the Real Estate Services Act. In particular, BCFSA is responsible for: 

    • Licensing individuals and brokerages engaged in real estate sales, rental property management and strata management activities; 
    • Monitoring and enforcing entry qualifications; 
    • Investigating complaints against licensees related to possible professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee; 
    • Conducting discipline hearings; and 
    • Imposing administrative penalties or discipline sanctions. 
    • BCFSA does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate monetary or contract matters or assess or award damages, all of which come under the jurisdiction of the civil courts. Anyone who seeks to deal with monetary or contract matters must pursue a civil remedy through legal proceedings. 

  • If a concern develops for a consumer as a result of real estate services provided by a licensee, consider taking the following steps: 

    1. Discuss the concern with the licensee.
    2. If the matter is still not resolved, discuss the concern with the managing broker in charge of the brokerage.
    3. If the licensee is also a member of a local real estate board, talk to the board. They may be able to assist to informally resolve the concern. Real estate boards sometimes investigate conduct that may be in violation of their Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice. These boards will refer all matters to BCFSA where it appears that the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation or Rules have been contravened. Please visit www.bcrea.bc.ca for names and addresses of local boards.
    4. If satisfaction is still not forthcoming, you should bring your concern to BCFSA.
    5. Use BCFSA’s complaint form or call us at at (604) 660-3555 or toll-free in BC (806) 266-3030 The complaint should be in writing, signed by the complainant, and accompanied by any relevant supporting documentation,

    Complaints received from consumers are carefully reviewed by BCFSA staff to determine whether: 

    • BCFSA has the authority to conduct an investigation; 
    • The complaint can be informally resolved; 
    • The complainant is aware that BCFSA cannot remedy a civil wrong, i.e. where there has been a negligent act or omission on the part of a licensee; 
    • The complainant understands the professional and ethical responsibilities of the licensee in the particular transaction; and
    • The complainant has included with their complaint all information and documentation sufficient for the commencement of an investigation, if necessary. 

    A BCFSA Investigator may telephone the complainant at the initial complaint assessment stage to develop a better understanding of the issues surrounding the complaint and to ensure that the complainant understands BCFSA’s investigation and discipline processes. If BCFSA receives multiple complaints alleging similar misconduct by a licensee, BCFSA will consider which of the instances is to be investigated. After an initial assessment of each complaint has been made, a BCFSA Investigator may advise the complainant that: 

    • Their specific complaint will not be investigated at this time because similar complaints are the subject of investigation; 
    • A copy of the complaint will be provided to the licensee, and/or
    • The complainant will be advised of the outcome. 
  • As part of BCFSA’s investigative process, the licensee may be asked to respond to allegations of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming. The licensee may also be asked to provide copies of all contracts, service agreements, trade record sheets, agency and other disclosure forms, correspondence and any other relevant documents related to the subject matter of the inquiry. It is important for licensees to note that, pursuant to s. 37 (3) (b) (i) and (ii) of the Real Estate Services Act, BCFSA may require the licensee to answer, or meet with the investigator to answer, inquiries relating to the investigation to produce information, records or other things in the person’s possession or control for examination by the investigator. 

    The licensee is entitled to retain legal counsel to assist in responding to BCFSA and should consider doing so. The licensee should also speak to his or her managing broker about assisting in preparing to respond to, or meet with BCFSA investigator, even if no allegations are made against the managing broker. 

    When responding to BCFSA inquiries, the licensee should: 

    • Give a full and fair accounting of the events that gave rise to the inquiry; 
    • Give copies of all documents requested — often the complainant gives BCFSA more documentation than the licensee, and the licensee should ensure that BCFSA has a complete picture; and 
    • Remember that the licensee may be cross-examined, if a hearing is conducted, on all statements the licensee makes in the response. Therefore, accuracy and completeness are crucial. The majority of licensees respond to inquiries from BCFSA in a cooperative and professional fashion. Unfortunately, some licensees treat the correspondence and the requests for information as either unimportant or a nuisance. 

    The licensee should not: 

    • Ignore the request—that will just lead to further disciplinary action by BCFSA. Under section 21 of the Rules, licensees must respond promptly in writing to any inquiry by BCFSA; 
    • Treat the request as inconsequential—the complaint may ultimately lead to a hearing which may result in costs, licence reprimand, suspension, cancellation and/or financial penalty; 
    • Conceal or withhold information—this is a contravention under section 37(4) of the Real Estate Services Act; or
    • Be sarcastic or emotional in the response—the licensee may be cross-examined on his or her response at a hearing. 
  • Complaints can be processed and resolved in a number of ways, including summarily, as a result of being closed administratively or through the imposition of an administrative penalty, or formally, as a result of a discipline hearing. 

    • (1) Closed Administratively 

      Approximately 50% of all complaints received by BCFSA are closed administratively. A complaint file may be closed at any stage where it is found that: 
      • The allegation requires application and/or enforcement of legislation over which the BCFSA has no authority (otherwise known as “No Jurisdiction”); 
      • There is no evidence of professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee; 
      • The complaint has been dealt with to the complainant’s and BCFSA’s satisfaction by the brokerage or licensee; 
      • The complaint has been withdrawn. BCFSA is not compelled, however, to cease an investigation or discipline hearing even if the complainant indicates a desire to withdraw a complaint. 
    • (2) Administrative Penalties 

    Contraventions of designated Rules may result in the Superintendent of Real Estate imposing an administrative penalty on a licensee. Examples include failure to comply with advertising rules and failure to maintain proper books and records. Where the Superintendent intends to impose an administrative penalty, it will first notify the licensee of the Rule that has been contravened, the amount of the administrative penalty to be imposed, and advise the licensee of the licensee’s right to be heard respecting the matter. Administrative penalties are not considered discipline sanctions and, as such, do not form a part of a licensee’s public disciplinary record. 

  • If a consumer has entrusted money to a real estate licensee or an unlicensed individual acting on behalf of a brokerage and that money has been misappropriated or wrongfully converted, intentionally not paid over or accounted for, or obtained by the fraud of that licensee or individual, the consumer may wish to make a claim against the Real Estate Special Compensation Fund

  • For those complaints that are not closed administratively, a summary of the complaint will be sent to the licensee involved, as well as to the managing broker at the brokerage where the licensee is engaged. The licensee is asked to provide a written response to the complaint against them. In addition, BCFSA may request that the licensee respond to questions posed by BCFSA about the matters that gave rise to the complaint or other concerns arising from the complaint. 

    The licensee and their managing broker are also asked to provide copies of all documents and records that relate to the complaint. The licensee is advised that their response, or questions arising from their response, may be forwarded to the complainant for comment in order to assist BCFSA with its investigation. BCFSA is bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of British Columbia when releasing documents to any party. 

  • Where a complaint has been received from a consumer or a licensee, BCFSA may conduct an investigation to determine whether a licensee has committed professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee within the meaning of the Real Estate Services Act. BCFSA may also conduct an investigation on its own initiative. This could include, for example, where BCFSA becomes aware of a court decision or news report that suggests professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming on the part of a licensee. 

    The basic purpose of the investigation is to determine whether a licensee has committed: 

    • Professional misconduct by conduct that:  
      • Contravenes the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, the Rules, or Superintendent’s requirements; 
      • Contravenes a licence restriction or licence condition; 
      • Demonstrates incompetence in performing any activity for which a licence is required; 
      • Misappropriates or wrongfully converts money or other property entrusted to or received by the licensee in relation to the provision of real estate services; and/or
      • Fails to comply with an order of BCFSA, or the Superintendent of Real Estate; and 
    • Conduct unbecoming a licensee if the licensee engaged in conduct that:  
      • Is contrary to the best interests of the public; 
      • Undermines public confidence in the real estate industry; and/or
      • Brings the real estate industry into disrepute. 
  • The Superintendent of Real Estate has the authority, pursuant to sections 40 and 42 of the Real Estate Services Act, to hold a formal discipline hearing.  

    If it has been determined that a matter will proceed to a hearing, BCFSA will send a letter to the licensee advising that a hearing will be scheduled. In due course, a notice of discipline hearing, which outlines the alleged contraventions, is issued. At that time, the licensee is asked to consider whether they wish to enter into a consent order (see below). A licensee intending to engage a lawyer should consult their lawyer as soon as possible after receiving this notice in order to decide whether entering into a consent order may be preferable to a formal hearing. Any licensee named in a notice of discipline hearing who is unable to appear on the specified date must immediately contact the BCFSA office so that an application may be made to adjourn the hearing to an alternate date. 

  • In the event that a licensee wishes to admit the allegations and consents to the Superintendent of Real Estate making a specified order under section 43 of the Real Estate Services Act, the licensee may make a proposal under section 41 to settle the matter by way of a consent order. This process avoids the necessity of a formal hearing and can save considerable time and expense. A proposal includes an agreed statement of facts, appropriate admissions and a request as to outcome on terms acceptable to the Superintendent. Written notice must be given to BCFSA any time before the hearing date. BCFSA’s legal staff can assist in the preparation of the proposal. It should be noted that monetary penalties and expenses incurred by BCFSA in the enforcement of the provisions of the Real Estate Services Act can be recovered by BCFSA through this process. 
     
    If a consent order has been negotiated with the Superintendent of Real Estate , the licensee is required to waive their right to appeal. If a licensee and BCFSA legal staff cannot agree on the facts or what would be an appropriate penalty, a formal hearing will be scheduled. 

  • The complainant and the licensee, at their expense, may be represented by a lawyer. BCFSA has no obligation to retain a lawyer for either the complainant or the licensee. BCFSA will appoint a lawyer to present evidence at the hearing. 

  • While hearing procedures may vary with particular situations, the following procedures will generally be followed: 

    • The hearings are usually held at BCFSA’s office in Vancouver. On occasion, hearings will be held in other locations within the province. Hearings are public proceedings and the public is welcome to attend. A Court reporter is present at all hearings to record all of the evidence and submissions. Anyone may obtain a transcript of part or all of a hearing at their expense by making arrangements with the reporter. The name of the reporter for a particular hearing may be obtained from the BCFSA office. 
    • The hearing room is arranged so that the Superintendent of Real Estate and the independent legal counsel are seated together. A table is provided in front of the Superintendent of Real Estate where the licensee and their lawyer, if any, may sit. The lawyer acting for BCFSA also sits at a table before the Superintendent of Real Estate. 
    • After calling the hearing to order, the Chair will read the allegations and then ask all present to identify themselves for the record. 
    • The lawyer acting for BCFSA will, if appropriate, make opening comments as to the issues to be considered by the Superintendent of Real Estate. 
    • The licensee or their lawyer has the option of making opening comments before BCFSA calls any evidence or waiting until BCFSA’s case has been completed. 
    • The lawyer acting for BCFSA will then call the complainant and any other witnesses to give evidence. After their evidence in chief, they may be asked questions by way of cross-examination by the licensee or their lawyer. 
    • At the end of the cross-examination, if the Superintendent of Real Estate is unclear as to the circumstances or uncertain as to an answer given by a witness, they may indicate to the Chair any question that they feel is required to clarify the matter. The lawyer acting for BCFSA and the licensee or their lawyer may make submissions as to the appropriateness of questions before the witness answers the question. 
    • The notice of hearing will normally require the licensee to produce all documents, including accounting records relating to the matters at issue and actual production of that material may be requested at any point in the hearing. 
    • After all of BCFSA witnesses have testified, the licensee or their lawyer may give opening comments before giving evidence, if they have not already done so. The licensee can then give evidence and call their own witnesses. 
    • The licensee or their lawyer may complete their examination in chief and the licensee will then be subject to cross-examination by the lawyer acting for BCFSA and other licensees, if any. 
    • After all of the evidence is heard, the lawyer acting for BCFSA will make submissions to the Superintendent of Real Estate as to what conclusions might properly be drawn from the evidence and the licensee or their lawyer shall have a similar opportunity. The Superintendent of Real Estate will then deliberate as to whether there was any wrongdoing by the licensee. Should there be such a finding, a separate hearing to determine penalty and enforcement expenses will normally be held. The licensee may have the option, prior to the commencement of the hearing, of having both stages of the hearing heard together by signing a waiver foregoing their right to a separate hearing as to penalty and enforcement expenses. Having signed a waiver, the licensee may revoke that waiver at any time up to the conclusion of all of the evidence. In certain circumstances, despite having received a request for a waiver by a licensee, the two-step model will be employed due to either the complexity of the issues or the existence of the licensee’s previous discipline record. When separate hearings with respect to the issues of penalty and enforcement expenses are held, the Superintendent of Real Estate may invite written or oral submissions on penalty and enforcement expenses. 
  • A licensee whose conduct is in question is entitled to be in attendance throughout the hearing. A licensee who is alleged to have contravened the Real Estate Services Act, Regulation, Rules, or Superintendent’s requirements is a compellable witness at a formal hearing. Sometimes there are a number of licensees involved in a transaction that has resulted in the filing of a complaint. To assess the conduct of all of the licensees involved in a fair and impartial manner, it may be necessary to require all licensees to give evidence at a formal hearing. 

  • The Superintendent of Real Estate, pursuant to subsection 42(2) of the Real Estate Services Act, has the same powers as a commissioner under the Administrative Tribunals Act to compel the attendance of witnesses and to require the production of documents. The licensee is responsible for having any witnesses that they wish to give evidence at the hearing attend to give evidence. Should a witness, who is in a position to give relevant evidence, be reluctant to attend the hearing, BCFSA’s powers may be used to ensure the attendance of the witness. The licensee should provide BCFSA with appropriate advance notice should they wish to have BCFSA summons a witness. While the Superintendent of Real Estate is not bound to follow the formal rules of evidence, these rules are generally used as a guideline. Witnesses may be required to wait outside the hearing room prior to giving evidence, although they are entitled to attend the balance of the hearing after they have testified. Complainants and any other witnesses called by BCFSA will receive reasonable and necessary travelling and lodging expenses in accordance with the Supreme Court Rules. 

    At times, witnesses may be concerned that their evidence at an BCFSA hearing could be used against them in subsequent criminal or civil proceedings. Witnesses may ask for and be given the protection of either or both of the federal or provincial Evidence Act, which means that the evidence cannot be used against those witnesses in subsequent criminal or civil cases except in situations where it could be shown that the evidence given at the hearing was inconsistent with the evidence given in the subsequent case, in which case the original evidence could be used in a prosecution for perjury. 

  • The complainant may be represented by a lawyer at the hearing. All witnesses, including complainants, are examined and may be cross-examined, although such examination and cross-examination must be relevant to the issues being considered by the Superintendent of Real Estate. BCFSA will have a lawyer in attendance at formal hearings who will be responsible for seeing that all relevant evidence is brought before the Superintendent of Real Estate. 

  • After submissions, the hearing is concluded and the Superintendent of Real Estate will retire to reach a decision. A written decision is usually communicated within 30 days to the licensees and the complainant. 

  • Enforcement expenses recoverable against a licensee by BCFSA under the Real Estate Services Act are as follows: 

    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
    • For investigation expenses, $100/hour for each investigator; 
    • For an audit carried out during an investigation leading to a hearing;  
      • $150/hour for an auditor regularly employed by BCFSA; and 
      • In any other case, $400/hour; 
  • A licensee affected by a decision of BCFSA or a Discipline Committee may appeal that decision by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Financial Services Tribunal (FST) within 30 days of the date of the decision, together with the FST appeal fee of $850. Complete instructions on filing a Notice of Appeal are available on the Financial Services Tribunal’s website at www.fst.gov.bc.ca or by calling (250) 387-3464. Licensees may also write to: 

    Financial Services Tribunal 
    PO Box 9425 Stn Prov Govt. Victoria BC V8W 9V1