B.C.’s Superintendent of Real Estate will chair an independent advisory group looking into real estate practices in the province.
An interim deadline of April 8th has also been set for an initial report from the group.
It comes after allegations of impropriety in the Vancouver real estate industry via a controversial technqiue known as shadow flipping.
The Real Estate Council of BC says Carolyn Rogers’ first task will be to draw up the remainder of the committee, and to determine the scope of the probe of business practices and regulation of real estate agents.
“Included in the group’s mandate will be a look into whether assignment clauses are being used appropriately, and development of recommendations to increase the Council’s enforcement and oversight of non-disclosure by licensees investing in properties.”
The Superintendent of Real Estate is a provincially appointed position and reports to the Minister of Finance.
The Council says it expects the advisory group to include members from academia, the business community, and legal experts.
Question of independence
But how independent will an investigation of the real estate industry be, if led by the real estate industry?
CKNW put that question to the Maureeen Coleman with the Real Estate Council of B.C.
“Carolyn Rogers as the chair will be setting the scope and parameters of the inquiry and the scope and depth of what the independent advisory group is going to be looking at so I would not want to speak to what Ms. Rogers’ intentions are.”
The BC NDP’s housing critic says it is good the government is acknowledging there is a problem, but it is still falling short in actually dealing with the issue of real estate shadow flipping.
But housing critic Dave Eby says the shadow flipping happened on the Real Estate Council of BC’s watch, and now it is being asked to investigate itself.
“You have got the Superintendent of Real Estate who hasn’t issued a consumer protection press release since 2008. Then you have got the Real Estate Council of BC who is going to be appointing their own investigators to look into themselves. These are not independent investigations.”
Eby says there are options for a true arms-length investigation.
“That is the role for government. That is why we have the Ombudspersons office. That is why we have the Public Inquiries Act so that government can set up these independent investigations. That is what needs to happen here.”
The MLA has accused real estate agents who use assignment clauses for shadow-flipping of deceiving their clients.
The council is set to appoint a committee to look into the allegations in the next two weeks.
A few bad apples?
Vancouver realtor Aaron Jasper says a few bad apples are making the rest of the industry look bad.
The former Park Board Chair says he wants to give the independent investigation the benefit of the doubt, though he adds the real estate council needs tougher penalties for people who flout the laws.
“My criticism is I don’t feel the penalties are harsh enough. A small penalty, a refresher course, and a few months off is not substantial enough. I think people need to be in a situation where they are likely to lose their livelihood. I think that we need to do everything we can as an industry to maintain that high level of professionalism.”
Jasper calls reports of the endless flipping of homes alarming and says it is contributing to a lack of affordability in the region.
The deadline for the group to submit recommendations is April 8.