One of Vancouver's top realtors has been voted out of what he calls the "insiders club" after speaking out about unethical practices and lax penalties in the city's frenzied real estate market.
Re/Max realtor Keith Roy has been on the professional standards committee of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver since 2014, helping with its private adjudication of complaints, primarily from realtors about realtors.
The Globe and Mail has learned the board voted not to renew Mr. Roy's position on Thursday. One board member, upset over that decision, has resigned in protest.
"My removal comes at a time when I am publicly advocating for changes to improve ethics and consumer protection," Mr. Roy said. "I've been told someone said: 'Well, he kind of had it coming for talking.'"
It is another glimpse at unprecedented tensions and power struggles inside Vancouver's real estate industry, which is under intense scrutiny. Bidding wars, out-of-control prices and flipping by speculators have led to an outcry from clients who suspect they are being ripped off. The practices of at least one brokerage firm, New Coast Realty, are under investigation by the provincial regulator. A government-initiated advisory group is expected to recommend an overhaul of industry rules and practices within weeks.
The board controls access to the MLS system and keeps its disciplinary decisions secret. Its rules also say members who criticize other realtors can be fined.
"It's an insiders club that doesn't serve home buyers and sellers. Discipline is too lenient. Secrecy is paramount. Change is far too slow to happen," said Mr. Roy, who is among the top 10 per cent of Vancouver realtors in annual sales.
By contrast, the self-regulating Real Estate Council of B.C. is government-mandated to act in the public interest by investigating client complaints and publicizing sanctions against realtors.
Mr. Roy is one of a very few to challenge both bodies publicly, calling for tougher fines and licensing standards.
Royal LePage realtor Danny Gerbrandt, the board member who resigned on Monday, said he shares Mr. Roy's views. He cited the board's decision to remove Mr. Roy as a last straw.
"I believe Keith is going in the right direction, and if every realtor conducted himself like he does, we wouldn't have some of the problems we have," Mr. Gerbrandt said. "I just think there should be a higher standard, and the industry won't improve until we raise the calibre of people who are realtors."
Board president Dan Morrison said Mr. Roy's calls for change had nothing to do with the decision.
Mr. Morrison said too many realtors on the committee were from Re/Max – six out of 24, including Mr. Roy – which creates conflicts when the board gets complaints about that company.
"There are lots of precedents for removing people from professional conduct committees because we've had too many people from the same firm," Mr. Morrison said. He added Mr. Roy was chosen as the one to go because he was the latest to join Re/Max.
"I think Keith is a bright young guy. I think Keith has some good ideas," he said.
Mr. Roy has been particularly critical of the board for keeping its disciplinary decisions under wraps.
"There are realtors that have been punished multiple times and the people who hire them don't know that," Mr. Roy said, repeating an earlier criticism. "I am seeing the same names over and over – and the public will never know."
The board has said it is considering making those decisions public. Mr. Morrison pointed out that if it wanted to muzzle Mr. Roy, it could have kept him on and disciplined him for speaking out.
"If we wanted to silence him, the best way to do that would have been to leave him on the committee, because we have an official policy that the REBGV only has one spokesperson – and that is me as the president."