Violating the REALTOR® Code May Lead to Serious Consequences

As a REALTOR®, you know REALTORS® are subject to the REALTOR® Code. REALTORS® also know the REALTOR® Code is universally recognized by real estate professionals and consumers alike as the measure of professionalism in real estate. You also know the Code symbolizes an assurance of higher professional standards. And you know REALTORS® can be disciplined for violating the REALTOR® Code by their local board or association.

None of this is new. It’s part of what makes REALTORS® special and proudly distinguishes them from other real estate registrants who aren’t members of CREA.

However, did you know in 2020 CREA’s By-Laws and Rules were amended to give CREA the power to directly enforce the Code against REALTORS®? Such power can be exercised in relation to the conduct of a REALTOR® both inside and outside the practice of real estate in their daily life.

REALTORS® could face sanctions

For example, if a local board or association, a court or a regulatory body decides a REALTOR® has acted inappropriately by committing assault or making racial slurs, CREA could also review the matter. In general, CREA’s enforcement of the Code will focus on cases like these involving egregious conduct which can harm the reputation of all REALTORS® as well as the REALTOR® trademark. In exceptional circumstances, a REALTOR® could be investigated and measures imposed by CREA even before a determination is made by any other board/association, court or regulator looking into a REALTOR®’s conduct.

The practice gives CREA broad powers to levy sanctions, where appropriate. Such sanctions include:

  • Suspending, restricting or terminating a REALTOR®’s license to use and display CREA’s trademarks (for example, REALTOR® or MLS®);
  • Suspending, restricting or terminating a REALTOR®’s access to CREA services including, such things as CREA WEBForms®, the DDF®, and;
  • Imposing any other restrictions that CREA determines is appropriate.
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What this means for REALTORS®

Imagine telling a client you can’t display their listing on because you’ve been sanctioned by CREA for unethical conduct? Imagine losing the ability to display the MLS® mark on your marketing materials? What about losing access to CREA WEBForms®?

Further, CREA’s privacy policy, which all members agree to as a part of becoming a member of CREA, states CREA may disclose details relating to any ethical complaint including:

  • A REALTOR®’s name;
  • A description of any complaint against them;
  • The reasons behind any decision by CREA and/or a board/association with respect to any complaint; and
  • Any interim or final sanction applied to a REALTOR® with respect to such complaint.

For details on when and how CREA can exercise its disciplinary power against REALTORS®, REALTORS® should consult CREA’s REALTOR® Code Enforcement practice, which is available on REALTOR Link® and CREA’s privacy policy, which is available online. What these policies and practices indicate is that violating the Code can have serious ramifications on a REALTOR®’s reputation and ability to do business.

The point to all of the above is not to scare you, but to remind REALTORS® the ability to call oneself a REALTOR® is a privilege and comes with special duties such as abiding by the REALTOR® Code. As you go about your day-to-day business, keep the letter and spirit of the Code in mind to ensure you continue to demonstrate the best of what REALTORS® have to offer.

Note: CREA is not a regulating body and any issues or questions about compliance should be directed to the appropriate provincial regulator and/or local real estate board.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Simon Parham is General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at the Canadian Real Estate Association. He has expertise in a variety of federal laws and issues, including anti-money laundering and privacy law. Prior to joining CREA, Simon worked as counsel for the Department of Justice, where he provided legal advice to the Department of National Defence.

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