Real Estate buyers to be better protected

Real estate buyers to be better protected

Legislation will tighten disciplinary measures governing realtors

Wyng Chow

Vancouver Sun

May 7, 2004

British Columbians who purchase real estate will receive increased protection under new legislation introduced Thursday by the provincial government.

Key changes include the creation of a special compensation fund to protect consumers from losses incurred from theft or fraud by real estate service providers.

Another significant change imposes a new licensing requirement for managers of strata buildings.

A third move greatly enhances the powers of the Real Estate Council of B.C., giving the province's public watchdog statutory regulating authority to govern licensed realtors, as well as imposing penalties -- including fines -- and taking other disciplinary action in cases of misconduct.

The council would also be enabled to develop codes of conduct and ethics and to enforce them, along with authority to make disciplinary orders and freeze orders in urgent circumstances.

The new legislation, tabled in the house by Finance Minister Gary Collins, represents the first major overhaul of B.C.'s real estate laws in nearly half a century.

"The real estate industry has been enjoying a banner year as economic conditions in B.C. continue to improve," Collins said. "These changes will help to ensure that this important industry remains a vibrant part of our economy for years to come.

"Further, by replacing the old act, we are ensuring that people who retain the services of real estate professionals, or who purchase units from developers, are better protected while at the same time significantly reducing unnecessary regulatory requirements and red tape."

Collins said many of the elements contained in the new Real Estate Services Act, and the Real Estate Development Marketing Act, resulted from extensive discussions with affected parties, including broad public consultations.

Other key changes include:

- Condominium purchasers are given the right to rescind a contract for not receiving a disclosure statement, as well as a standardized seven-day cooling-off period, during which time buyers who received disclosure can still rescind the purchase contract.

- Developers will be provided with greater opportunities for the pre-selling of residential projects, and will be allowed access to purchasers' deposit monies if those monies are appropriately insured.

- The superintendent of real estate will be given the ability to impose administrative penalties, and to act against a developer who fails to file a disclosure statement, or to provide it to purchasers.

- Realtors' remuneration will be protected by requiring commissions to be kept in trust until paid out.

The proposed new changes were immediately welcomed by real estate council chairman Barry Clark.

"The whole act is a step in the right direction to provide consumers with greater protection than ever before," Clark said in an interview.

"The expanded enforcement powers contained . . . will enable the council to more effectively regulate the real estate industry. This will ultimately serve to strengthen consumer protection."

Clark said the special compensation fund to be established would be partly financed through interest earned from funds held in trust.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004