Toronto real estate brokerages have been told to stop displaying home sales data older than two years, according to a memo sent by their local real estate board, sowing confusion among realtors who question the sudden restriction.
The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) said some of its members have been abusing their privilege and access to the information by providing the home sales data to unauthorized third parties, according to the board’s e-mailed memo, which was sent on Wednesday and viewed by The Globe and Mail.
The memo said the board has started reviewing who was receiving the critical information and would suspend and fine members up to $50,000 if it finds they have flouted the rules.
As part of the e-mail, the board said “only two years of sold data can be displayed or accessed at any time” on the Virtual Office Website, also known as a VOW or a password-protected online brokerage.
“Data older than two years cannot be displayed or accessed on the VOW at any time,” said the memo.
Popular Toronto-based brokerages such as HouseSigma and Realosophy Realty Inc. have been displaying historical data since 2018, when the Supreme Court of Canada sided with a federal Competition Tribunal order allowing brokerages to display transaction records for properties in the Toronto region.
“They are making up new rules as they go and this latest one as far as I’m concerned is based on a flawed interpretation of the order,” said John Pasalis, president of Realosophy. “As far as I know it does violate the Competition Tribunal’s ruling and there is nothing in their own rules that prohibits this as far as I know,” he said.
After The Globe inquired about the memo, a spokeswoman for TRREB said it “contains a drafting error pertaining to display of archived data. We will be sending the correct updated version to members,” she said in an e-mailed statement. Late Thursday, the spokeswoman said the error pertains to the two-year restriction, but the board had not yet informed its members of the problem.
The Toronto real estate board had fought to keep the data exclusive to realtors, who were allowed to provide the information to their clients. The 2018 ruling allowed consumers to view historical data on password-protected brokerage websites, which allowed them to run their own comparisons without asking a realtor for the data.
HouseSigma cofounder Joseph Zeng said his interpretation of the ruling was that all historical data was allowed to be displayed. However, he said he would follow the TRREB requirements and take down the sold data that was older than two years.
A spokesperson for the Competition Bureau said it is reviewing TRREB’s letter, but said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
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