Who's policing dishonest B.C. realtors?
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013 6:00AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, May 29, 2013 7:13PM PDT
Vancouver is a city obsessed with real estate and the stakes are high for would-be buyers. But Janet MacKenzie lost faith in the industry after her realtor, Marco Vincenzi, admitted to altering documents, changing offer prices and submitting offers without her permission.
“It was quite a web of deceit. The more I delved into it after, the more I found out, the more surprising and shocking it was," said MacKenzie.
MacKenzie thinks Vincenzi should have been banned from practicing real estate for life, but Maureen Coleman of The Real Estate Council of B.C. admits that level of punishment rarely happens. She says in order for a realtor to have their license revoked they would have to do something more severe, like steal money from a client.
The council has sanctioned 79 B.C. realtors for misconduct since May 2012, including forging signatures and altering documents.
"I think for the most part, as a regulated industry, real estate is doing pretty well. That's not saying things don't go wrong, mistakes aren't made, or there is some conduct that needs to be disciplined, but it is a pretty well regulated industry," said Coleman.
Coleman points out there are 22,000 realtors in B.C. making around 70,000 deals a year. Less than one per cent of those deals result in written complaints from consumers like MacKenzie.
After admitting to altering documents and other improper behavior, MacKenzie’s realtor was ordered to pay a $1,250 fine, take a remedial course. He was also suspended for 120 days. The council took 16 months to make its decision.
"To see this long drawn out secretive real estate council process that finally resulted in something that I think is just a slap on the wrist is insulting and angers me," said MacKenzie.
The realtor apologized to the council and claimed his behavior was a marked departure from his ordinarily sound practice. But MacKenzie now wonders who is looking out for consumers in British Columbia.
"It calls into question for me the actual ability of the real estate council to do their job and their mandate and uphold the public interest, rather than giving the perception that they're protecting the realtors," she said.
MacKenzie also went to the Vancouver Police Department, who declined to proceed with a criminal investigation. Her case was ultimately reviewed by the Financial Crime Unit which felt the situation was better handled through a regulatory process rather than a criminal one.
After watching the CTV reports, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has decided to launch its own investigation into Marco Vincenzi.
“We actually have the ability, depending on what the results are, to not just suspend the member, but expel them from the membership of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver,” said Sandra Wyant, president of the board.
Wyant says Vincenzi could also face a $10,000 fine. She couldn't say how long the investigation would take and says the board's findings are not made public.
If you would like to file a complaint about a realtor with the REBGV you can click here.