The Selinger government wants to modernize the rules governing the province’s real estate industry — establishing a code of conduct for agents and hiking penalties for transgressors.
Under a bill tabled Tuesday in the legislature, prospective home buyers and sellers would be able to check a website listing all real estate agents to confirm that an agent is legitimate and whether they’ve been professionally disciplined.
Bill 70 (The Real Estate Services Act) would also require the signing of upfront agreements between agents and clients, explaining the agent’s role and setting out the sales commission and fees.
The legislation, if passed this year, would take effect in early 2015, said Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux.
Bill 70 marks the first substantial changes to the law covering real estate agents and brokerages in 60 years.
"We’re trying to move from the day of sending messages by carrier pigeon to using modern technology," Lemieux remarked.
"We believe that the consumer is going to be better protected than they ever have been with regard to purchasing or selling homes."
The new legislation would also:
- Require agents to tell home sellers of all offers on their home in multiple-offer situations;
- Require an agent representing the homebuyer and the seller to inform both clients of the possible conflict before a sale is finalized; and
- Establish a stronger complaints and disciplinary process with broader disciplinary powers that would include mediation, suspension or termination of an agent’s licence.
A new code of conduct would be established to guide services and avoid conflicts of interest. Advertisements and marketing of homes for sale would have to be accurate and truthful, client information would have to be kept confidential and agents would be required to disclose to clients if they have a personal or family interest in a sale, the province said in a release.
Maximum fines for agents and brokerages would soar to $100,000 and $500,000 respectively from the current rate of $1,000 for agents and $2,000 for brokerages. Agents could also face up to two years in jail for breaches of the act.
The new legislation was crafted in conjunction with the Manitoba Securities Commission and the Manitoba Real Estate Association.
The government placed a notice in December seeking public input into the new legislation. More than 500 Manitobans participated in the province’s online consultation.