Real Estate Council won’t investigate 'bad apples': Housing critic
A house "sold" sign is shown in Oakville, Ont., Monday, July 23, 2012. (Richard Buchan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, February 12, 2016 2:18PM PST
Last Updated Friday, February 12, 2016 4:16PM PST
The province’s self-regulating real estate watchdog is refusing to investigate realtors who may be involved in fraud and money-laundering, even as it’s tasked with investigating possibly widespread problems in the industry, the NDP’s housing critic charged in the BC Legislature.
The Real Estate Council of B.C. is sitting on its hands despite credible evidence of realtors behaving badly – something the public shouldn’t tolerate with so much money at stake in Vancouver’s red hot market, David Eby said.
“When the Real Estate Council receives credible information about realtors involved in fraud, or money laundering, they don’t ask police for assistance,” Eby said.
“They don’t call the federal anti-money laundering agency FINTRAC. They don’t even open an investigation file.
“They do nothing,” he said.
The Real Estate Council of B.C. is part of a task force with B.C.’s Superintendent of Real Estate to investigate so-called “shadow flipping” – where a realtor tells a seller he is working for one buyer, but transfers the option to buy again and again, making a commission each time.
The home often goes for hundreds of thousands more than the original price, leading some sellers to allege they were duped into selling for too little.
Eby said the council had received 536 complaints and held just one investigation hearing last year, saying that is mounting evidence that the agency refuses to investigate “bad apple” realtors.
He wrote a letter asking what the Real Estate Council planned to do about the case of Liang Wei, a realtor whose dealings were examined in a B.C. Securities Commission hearing.
Eby said in the legislature that the hearing heard Wei assisted a client in opening a bank account with fraudulent information, and personally deposited money into that account.
Instead of opening an investigation for possible sanctions against the realtor, Eby said the Council wrote back to him saying they could do nothing.
“The council cannot make a determination as to whether any of the actions were wrongful. But should the appropriate regulatory body make a determination, the council will be very interested in those findings. We would then be able to open an investigation,” the letter said, according to Eby.
Finance Minister Mike De Jong told the legislature that he believes the watchdogs will do their job.
“The government and I have no sympathy and patience for those who would practice real estate while taking advantage of clients,” de Jong said.
“For those who are motivated by greed or self-interest, the council and the superintendent will report back by April 15. If that doesn’t provide a satisfactory response the government reserves the right to act itself,” de Jong said.