The report, tabled in May by the Quebec Finance Ministry, gave interested parties until Sept. 30 to respond. With the deadline for submissions past, the government will now study possible changes to the Real Estate Brokerage Act, which came into force in 2010, but has been amended since then.
The government report says the brokerage industry is at a crossroads. The report surveyed the industry, asking questions rather than making recommendations. Among the questions it asks:
- Should brokerage be defined — which the act does not do at the moment — and limit certain actions to brokers?
- Should the act govern the activities of for-sale-by-owner companies (FSBOs)?
- What regulatory model should be chosen to protect the public’s interests?
For Andrew Mitchell, a chartered real estate broker with Vistacor Realty Group in Montreal, the issue is one of protection. He says the public has no protection or guarantee on the services of a FSBO, while real estate brokers have a code of conduct and are covered by a real estate indemnity fund and the professional liability insurance fund.
“Essentially the for-sale-by-owner companies in Quebec are confusing the public by saying they’re coaches or advisors, yet aren’t offering the same protections or operating under the same legal framework as real estate brokers,” he says.
The Quebec Federation of Real Estate Boards is asking Finance Minister Carlos Leitão to clarify the Real Estate Brokerage Act so that “real estate coaches and FSBO companies become subject to the provisions of the act.”
“People obviously have a right to sell their home themselves or advertise any way they want, but when FSBOs started expanding from advertising to offering advice and coaching, that is then falling under what a real estate broker does, and therefore operate under the same Real Estate Brokerage Act, so that the public has the same protection,” says Mitchell.
What is a real estate broker? In Quebec, it’s a question being asked by the provincial government in a report on the state of the Act governing real estate brokerages – and the answer from some in the industry is that for-sale-by-owner companies should be governed by the same Act as brokers.