The Province: It’s ridiculous that Real Estate Council of B.C. is investigating real estate agents and brokerages for fraud, says NDP housing critic

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From the article:

Opposition housing critic David Eby says it’s “ridiculous” that the self-regulating government agency that oversees B.C.’s realtors and brokerage firms has been tasked with striking an advisory committee to investigate allegations of systemic fraud and insider trading in Metro Vancouver’s hot real estate market.

Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, said Tuesday that while he’s glad the government has “actually started to recognize” the existence of major problems within the housing market, a fully independent inquiry is needed, not a probe spearheaded by the Real Estate Council of B.C. with oversight from the Superintendent of Real Estate.

“I’m glad the government has started to actually recognize there is a problem — that’s light years from where they were 72 hours ago,” Eby said Tuesday in reference to the council’s refusal to investigate matters he brought forward last month, including allegations that some realtors were taking advantage of assignment clauses for personal benefit.

“But the idea that you would ask the Superintendent of Real Estate, who hasn’t issued a consumer protection press release since 2008, and a real estate council, whose lack of oversight has led to this crisis, to investigate themselves and their own failures, it’s ridiculous.”

The advisory group comes in response to serious issues raised by the media, including The Province, relating to allegations of realtor fraud and other questionable practices in Metro Vancouver’s housing market, including shadow-flipping — the later reported on extensively by the Globe and Mail on the weekend.

On Tuesday, the council announced the advisory group will be chaired by Carolyn Rogers, the CEO of B.C.’s Financial Institutions Commission, who also serves as the Superintendent of Real Estate.

One of her first tasks will be to recruit other members and to establish the scope of the investigation, the council said in a statement.

“Included in the group’s mandate will be a look into whether assignment clauses are being used appropriately, and development of recommendations to increase the council’s enforcement and oversight of non-disclosure by licensees investing in properties,” the statement read.

Eby said there are other avenues the government could use to investigate the allegations, including the Ombudsperson Act and the Public Inquiry Act. Both of those bodies, could subpoena witnesses, subpoena evidence, take evidence under oath, and be afforded the opportunity to “follow this where it goes,” he said.

“The problem with the model that has been proposed by the government is that it seems like the industry itself will get to decide where this goes and how far the investigation goes,” said Eby.

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