The Independent Advisory Group formed to look into problems with the real estate industry has unveiled 28 recommendations to try and protect the public and restore confidence.
But while some are cheering the report’s recommendations, others like real estate fraud victim Janet Mackenzie say they’re not impressed.
LISTEN: Lynda and Janet Mackenzie discuss the report
In 2011, Mackenzie was defrauded by a realtor who went so far as to forge her signature to beef up his commission.
After getting caught, she says the Real Estate Council dragged its heels on looking at the case, held its hearing in secret, and in the end let him off with a six month suspension and fine just over $1,000.
She says today’s move is a step in the right direction, but her experience has left her skeptical of the reforms.
“I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. It’s easy to put words on paper, but until its actually implemented its going to be hugely important to see if the public interest is actually going to be protected.”
Mackenzie says she’s not convinced the complaints process is getting enough of a revamped to guarantee victims can be involved. In her case, her realtor’s hearing with the Council was held in private with no input from her, and she says she sees nothing in the recommendations to prevent that from happening again.
“It has to be accountable to the public, but also to the victim, and have an opportunity for the victim to present their side of the story, and the facts, and have full input for that in order for there to be a fair outcome for the process.”
Mackenzie also says while she’s pleased to see hefty new fines on the table, she has concerns about whether the council will ever slap them on anyone.
“You can have a maximum fine that’s a million dollars, but if they’re never going to hand that out that’s going to be a problem as well. Even in my case, as an example, the initial fine from my complaint was actually only $1,250 to this realtor. And the maximum fine at this time could have been I believe up to $10,000.”
She says if the Council wasn’t ready to hand out the maximum fine to someone caught committing forgery before, she worries they wouldn’t drop the new quarter million dollar penalty on someone now.
She adds if the plan is to work there will need to be strict guidelines and consistency about when the fines are used.