Manitoba real estate professionals welcome proposed consumer protection legislation

A proposed new Real Estate Services Act will help protect consumers, improve professionalism and accountability throughout the real estate profession, and make for a stronger Manitoba, said Brian M. Collie, CEO of the Manitoba Real Estate Association in a MREA press release.
The proposed legislation was  recently tabled by Minister for Consumer Protection Ron Lemieux for first reading in the Manitoba Legislature. 
It has been more than 60 years since the Real Estate Brokers Act was revamped. The act was written in the 1940s when people didn’t use smartphones or computers to conduct regular business. 
Most of the recommendations contained in Bill 70, the proposed Real Estate Services Act, were arrived at following a number of years of careful planning, recommendations, input and co-operative consultation between government and the real estate industry.
“We are pleased the Manitoba government is taking this initiative to modernize the act,” said Collie. “ As a profession, we have provided considerable input, advice and recommendations over a number of years of consultation. 
“Many of our recommendations are already implemented and we also look forward to continuing this partnership to ensure that buying and selling homes and properties in Manitoba is a positive community-building experience. Organized real estate is privileged to hold this important role and responsibility. We always want to strengthen the best consumer protection practices and to enhance our profession’s role in building a better Manitoba,” he added in the release.
In the press release, MREA said it would like to clarify possible misunderstanding around the issue of capping commissions and whether the Manitoba government intends to use its power to enforce commission caps. 
While the Manitoba Securities Commission (MSC) will have the authority to cap or to amend commissions, the commission chair has stressed this authority would only be used if this became a future issue and only after consultation with the industry and the public. 
Commissions are always negotiable, and MREA always recommends that commissions be discussed up-front with clients and agreed upon with agents. 
The code being proposed is a close cousin to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s, The REALTOR® Code, which is already in place across the country and in Manitoba. 
The MREA is fully supportive of the government’s initiative to mandate the code, which will call real estate agents to higher standards of professionalism and transparency with clients. 
The addition of a service agreement between agent and seller will also clearly outline the role of the agent and will set forth a written agreement covering commissions, fees, and what services the agent will provide. 
‘It will place a higher level of expectation on practitioners in the real estate industry, and I think it's a good thing for all,” said Collie.
The service agreement is a change welcomed readily by the MREA, which represents nearly 2,100 real estate professionals across the province. 
Under the proposed act, home buyers and home sellers will also be able to check for timely information — likely to be posted on the MSC site — for a listing of real estate agents who have been disciplined in order to know the status of complaints filed.
Highlights of the proposed act:
• List online all agents and any disciplinary findings against them.
• Require a service agreement that explains the role of the agent in helping their client and an upfront agreement about the agent’s sales commission and fees.
• Require agents to tell sellers of all offers on their home.
• Require an agent representing the home buyer and the seller to inform both clients of a possible conflict.
• Establish a new code of conduct for marketing and advertising homes for sale.
• Broader disciplinary powers for the MSC,  including mediation, suspension or termination of a licence.
• Increase the maximum fines to $100,000 for agents and $500,000 for brokerages from the current rate of $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. Agents could also face up to two years in jail for breaching the act.