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WHEREAS realtors are represented by local, provincial and national boards, the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA), and Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), both of which are advocacy groups responsible for the “Realtor” and “MLS” trademarks; and
WHEREAS abiding by codes of conduct are a condition of membership in each association, which includes permission to use the trademarks and associated products; and
WHEREAS the CREA code of conduct obligations for realtors include requirements to be aware of current (and pending) legislation including zoning; attend educational programs to remain up to date; discover facts which a prudent realtor would discover to avoid error or misrepresentation; and encourage parties to seek the advice of outside professionals if it is outside the expertise of the realtor; and
WHEREAS AREA supports professional development by providing courses, including a mandatory course each year; and
WHEREAS the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) is the regulator for the Alberta real estate industry, under the Real Estate Act; and
WHEREAS RECA provides the initial and relicensing education and certification of real estate professionals in Alberta; and
WHEREAS RECA’s education program does include a component on zoning; and
WHEREAS for the past two years, relicensing education updates have only been required for commercial real estate and property management;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to amend their policies and legislation under the Real Estate Act to mandate that continual education requirements for all licensed realtors must annually include land use planning and zoning elements.
The County of Grande Prairie has identified a number of the concerns that are driving the organization to promote a better understanding of the County’s policies by the public and certain professional organizations; most notably realtors. The County continues to hear from its residents and in particular those applying for development approvals for home-based businesses that advice obtained from a realtor directed them to purchase the property without exploring the ability to accommodate their intended use. The County will often hear that “their realtor told them they could do ‘X’ when they purchased the property.” This situation often leads to compliance issues, conflict and negative impacts on County ratepayers with limited avenues for recourse through their realtor.
The Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) is the regulator for the Alberta real estate industry, under the Real Estate Act. RECA provides the initial and relicensing education and certification of real estate professionals in Alberta. This self-paced, self-directed, e-learning program does include a component on zoning, referred to as “cursory” by the Grande Prairie & Area Association of Realtors. For the past two years, relicensing education updates have only been required for commercial real estate and property management professionals. While the Real Estate Act establishes RECA and provides the authority to RECA to make bylaws and rules, there are no specific requirements outlined within the Act that mandates continual education requirements. Further, RECA’s bylaws and rules provide no specific requirements that land use planning and zoning elements be required for re-licensing education programs.
The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) provides continuing educational/professional development courses for its membership. In 2016 the mandatory course was on FINTRAC, which is legislation around prevention of money-laundering. In 2017 it was on enforceable contracts, and 2018 was on professional ethics. The optional courses available are on Canadian anti-spam legislation and on competition law.
Most real estate education/professional requirements around zoning are focused on ensuring that what is in existence is legal. RECA, however also states that real estate professionals should establish the intended use of the purchaser early in the relationship and ensure that the current zoning is sufficient to allow that use. If the zoning would not allow the use, they should direct the purchaser to the municipality to re-zone, and possibly make the purchase conditional on re-zoning approval. Failing to provide competent service may lead to a complaint, or lawsuit.
RECA views itself as a facilitator of self-regulation. An individual who is party to the transaction, incident, or conduct in question may file a complaint. Complaints do not result in compensation for the complainant. They may sue the real estate professional for damages/costs incurred due to misrepresentation or error. For minor breaches, there is also an alternative complaint resolution process, which is a mediated or negotiated voluntary process.
Ultimately, real estate professionals are trying to make a sale, whether representing the buyer or the seller. This leads to performance at the minimum level expected by clients. Further, once time has elapsed between the purchase of property and compliance visits, or unexpected costs such as rezoning, purchasers are more likely to be upset with the municipality’s policy and procedures rather than with the advice of their realtor. This means complaints and legal action against real estate professionals are less likely. Real estate professionals, especially agents for the buyer, should provide better advice around zoning than they do, however given the current system there is not a large probability of consequence for underperformance.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.