Agent Who Steals Gets Licence Restored by LAT
The agent in this case stole batteries and $200 to $300 in cash. He was caught on video.
The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) revoked his licence to practice. On appeal to the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) his licence was restored subject to certain conditions.
On 15 October 2015, the agent booked a showing with the Owner of a property. The agent went alone, and was caught on video rummaging through drawers, and shelving units. He took batteries from a storage unit and the money from a piggybank.
The matter was reported to police who charged the agent with “Theft under $5,000”.
RECO immediately suspended the agent and commenced proceedings to revoke the agent’s registration (to be accurate here, a real estate professional holds a “registration” and not a licence, consequently the term “licence” as used here, is used rather loosely).
The agent agreed to the basic facts, but took issue with the amount stolen claiming it only to be $20.
In matters that come before the Licence Appeal Tribunal, it is the Registrar of RECO who presents the case “for the prosecution”.
The Broker of Record for this agent terminated him immediately upon hearing of this incident. He indicated that he has far too many agents for him to be able to monitor this agent’s behaviour. Otherwise, his record of employment had been clean.
The Registrar had no evidence of other similar incidents. Supervision is risky since it involves the activities of another person, rather than the agent himself. Readmission is possible in the future if there were a change in circumstances. There were no other complaints that RECO had received about this agent’s conduct.
The agent’s counsel offered testimony from an experienced Social Worker (25 years) who works with a forensic psychiatrist. The agent had seen this Social Worker, 11 times over a 5 month period. Testimony indicated that the agent had utilized “cognitive distortion” to minimize the stealing of small items, in the sense that “no one would get hurt”. He testified that he is assisting the agent to “regain control over his life”. Part of that success will depend upon being an agent once again.
The agent testified that he was the primary caregiver for his family. He is married with two children. This situation affects them as well. He demonstrated remorse and was motivated to “become a better person”.
Under s. 10 of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, an applicant that meets the prescribed requirements is entitled to registration or renewal of registration by the registrar unless,
…. “the past conduct or the applicant… affords reasonable grounds for the belief that the applicant will not carry on business in accordance with integrity and honesty,…..”.
Licence Appeal Tribunal Reasons for Decision
The question ultimately before the Tribunal is whether the agent’s past conduct is sufficient to provide the Registrar with reasonable grounds to believe that the agent:
1) Will not act in accordance with the law, and
2) Will not act with honesty and integrity in the future.
The Social Worker thought that the agent would not revert to his past behaviour. The Registrar was concerned because “treatment” had been a mere 5 months.
The Tribunal was influenced by the following:
· Agent took responsibility
· Agent admitted allegations
· Agent undertook volunteer activities
· Agent sought professional help
The Social Worker noted that the agent was motivated to change and there has been no reversion to the former behaviour.
The Registrar will not proceed with the revocation, but the agent’s registration will be subject to certain conditions:
· For 3 years, the agent will be accompanied by clients or other agents for attendances,
· For 3 years, the agent will maintain and independent log of attendances,
· For 3 years, he will immediately inform the Registrar of any complaints against him,
· The agent shall advise his Broker of Record of any changes in status, and the disposition of the criminal charges,
· The agent shall immediately advise his Broker should his continued therapy with the Social worker be terminated.
There were several other conditions imposed which are of an administrative nature.
So, all in all, this particular agent was given a second chance by the Licence Appeal Tribunal.
The entire matter proceeded very quickly through both RECO and the Licence Appeal Tribunal, since the incident took place on 15 October 2015, and the LAT held its hearing on 19 April 2016 and then released its decision on 5 May 2015.
Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker