Last spring, Minister Tracy MacCharles introduced Bill 55, Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, 2013 in the legislature. Bill 55 sought to strengthen consumer protection in the areas of door-to-door sales, debt settlement services and real estate transactions.
The original bill presented by the government proposed two changes to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA), 2002. First, the bill called for more flexible remuneration of fees and/or commissions payable to real estate brokers. Under the old Act, consumers could pay either commission or an agreed upon fee, but not both. OREA supported the government’s plan to remove this restriction.
Secondly, the bill proposed mandatory retention of all unsuccessful written offers by the selling brokerage for a period of time to be prescribed by regulation. Although the government was committed to pushing the bill forward, OREA was concerned that section 35.1(2) would create an undue administrative burden on real estate brokerages that would be responsible for collecting, retaining and managing thousands of offers annually.
OREA worked hard to make their case to Minister MacCharles, RECO and ministry senior staff. In addition to numerous meetings and submissions, OREA volunteers and staff made their final appeal to the government during the bill’s final committee phase.
We are happy to report, that during clause by clause review, the government responded to our concerns and passed an amendment to section 35.1 (2). This should provide real estate brokerages with some flexibility in complying with the requirement. Specifically, the government amendment added a provision which permits a selling brokerage to retain offers or copies of all other prescribed documents related to those offers. This should mitigate the administrative burden on brokerages by allowing them to comply with the section without having to keep copies of all offers.
The bill passed third reading in the legislature on November 27th, 2013 and received Royal Assent earlier this month.
Although we have much work to do on determining “all other prescribed documents”, this is a big win for Ontario REALTORS®. The government’s willingness to engage our members and adopt their advice is testament to the great work OREA’s Government Relations Committee members do and the strong relationship the association has built with the government and the opposition parties.