Regulation of Real Estate Services

In British Columbia, under the Real Estate Services Act, real estate services include:

  • Finding homes for buyers
  • Finding buyers for home sellers
  • Leasing
  • Rental property management
  • Strata management

The Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) co-regulates the real estate industry with the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.

OSRE and the Real Estate Council coordinate regulatory actions to protect consumers from misconduct.

Licensing Requirement

Providers of real estate services in B.C. must be licensed with the Real Estate Council unless otherwise exempted from licensing requirements. Proper licensing ensures that real estate service providers:

  • Meet educational and professional standards
  • Manage funds through trust accounts
  • Carry errors and omissions insurance

Real estate licensees have duties to protect consumers, as well as themselves and the integrity of the real estate market, by upholding their professional responsibilities. Licensees who facilitate or encourage unlicensed and non-exempt real estate services will be subject to disciplinary action by the Real Estate Council.

Before working with a real estate services provider, verify whether they are licensed with the Real Estate Council.

Manufactured homes

Manufactured or mobile home dealers do not need a licence to sell a manufactured home on its own, but are required to obtain a licence for the following real estate services:

  • Negotiating the price or terms of a lease, including month‐to‐month
  • Making representations about the land such as availability, value or price
  • Taking deposits for the lease of land

Licensing Exemption

Individuals do not require a real estate licence to provide real estate services to or for themselves. For example, a homeowner could offer their own home for sale, or for rent, without a licence.

A real estate licence is not required to provide real estate services to someone else for free. For example, assisting a friend or relative for free with the sale or lease of their home would not require a licence.

The Real Estate Services Regulation provides other licensing exemptions, such as for employees of developers. Any conditions specified in an exemption must be met in order to rely on that exemption.

Unlicensed Activities

Unlicensed and non-exempt real estate services in B.C. are prohibited under the Real Estate Services Act. Unlicensed providers may charge opportunistic fees and commissions, and expose consumers to other potential misconduct.

In order to protect consumers, OSRE investigates and takes enforcement action against companies and individuals that provide real estate services without appropriate licences or exemptions in B.C.

Although homeowners are allowed to sell their own properties without a licence, the use of online advertising services may lead to offers of unlicensed services. Suspected unlicensed real estate services can be reported to OSRE.

Penalties

Amendments to the Real Estate Services Act have significantly increased the penalties against licensees and against unlicensed individuals or companies. The maximum penalties are:

  • $250,000 per contravention for individuals
  • $500,000 per contravention for brokerages or unlicensed companies