The self-regulating body that metes out discipline to British Columbia's 21,000 licensed real estate agents says it has beefed up its investigative capacity amid ongoing scrutiny of the industry.
The Real Estate Council of B.C. announced Friday it has added a lawyer to its investigations unit to speed up and improve the disciplinary process and is now prepared to hire private investigators to gather evidence in cases that present a significant public risk.
"Our concern, and what our goal is, is to make sure that we get the evidence we need to move forward to formal discipline when it's appropriate," said Maureen Coleman, who had overseen investigations at the council since it took over full regulation of the industry in 2005.
This January, Ms. Coleman began a new role, also announced Friday, as a conduit for members of the public to get better information about the council's complaint process. So far this year, the council has responded to 1,059 inquiries from the public, she said.
After a Globe and Mail investigation earlier this year examined shadow flipping, formally known as contract assigning, Premier Christy Clark vowed to ban the practice.
That prompted the Superintendent of Real Estate to announce the creation of an independent advisory group to study ways in which the council can crack down further on unethical real estate agents. The group's preliminary recommendations are expected to be announced next Friday.
In a separate move last week, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which guards access to the Multiple Listings Service in the region, voted to immediately triple the potential penalty for any realtor caught subverting rivals or violating their professional code of conduct to a maximum of $30,000, up from $10,000.
Ms. Coleman said the advisory group is likely studying ways for the council to increase the maximum fines, something the council first asked the provincial government to look into in December of 2014.
Under provincial law, the council can only levy a maximum fine of $10,000, though most cases in which the council disciplines agents end in a reprimand, with only some resulting in financial penalties or suspensions.