TORONTO – Ontario is proposing banning the practice of double ending, in which a real estate agent represents both a buyer and a seller in a transaction.
The province’s Liberal government announced a 16-point housing plan earlier this year, with centrepiece planks of a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax and expanded rent controls.
Another plank was reviewing the rules for real estate agents to ensure consumers are fairly represented. The government has now published several proposals for changes to real estate agent rules and penalties, and is seeking public consultation on them.
One of the proposals is to ban — with some limited exceptions — salespeople from representing both the buyer and seller or more than one potential buyer in a trade.
“The seller will want the highest possible price and most favourable terms they can get, and the buyer will want to pay the lowest price or negotiate the most favourable terms possible,” a government discussion paper says.
“These competing interests may make it challenging for registrants involved in these types of transactions to meet their obligations to their clients or to be able to advocate effectively on behalf of either party.”
Consumers have raised concerns that the financial incentives in double-ended deals might lead to agents engaging in unethical behaviour, the government says in its paper.
“This divided loyalty and the associated risks may leave some consumers vulnerable even when written consent is obtained and the necessary disclosures…have been made.”
Currently, double ending is allowed if all of the clients the agent is representing give their consent to the arrangement in writing.
Under the government’s proposed changes, different agents from the same brokerage could represent the buyer and the seller in a transaction. The “limited exceptions” to the double-ending ban would be if there is a private arrangement between family members or in a small market where there are very few agents.
Ontario says its proposed new model is similar to how British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba approach multiple representation in real estate deals. It is looking to those jurisdictions to learn best practices.
The government is also considering increasing the maximum fine for salespeople and brokers who violate a code of ethics from $25,000 to $50,000 and $100,000 for brokerages.
A second and broader phase of reviewing Ontario real estate rules will start in the spring of 2018.