Another Agent Signs for Another Client
This time, it wasn’t quite so bad. They had been “texting” with the client so they thought it was OK.
No, it’s not OK. Don’t sign for or on behalf of the Client without permission. And, if you need to know: Permission is called a Power of Attorney.
So, we have another case where the Agent just went ahead with the forgery.
This case involves the fictitious Mary Smith. The real name is available through the RECO website if you want to look it up.
This was a matter which went to a full Hearing before the Disciplinary Panel. Now, you really need to know the procedure here:
First, there is full disclosure of all of the RECO’s investigative file.
Second, there is a Pre-Hearing, with all of the witnesses, statements etc., except it is an “off the record” proceeding. No one testifies under oath. No actual decision is made. Rather than three Panelists, there is one person, who then is ineligible to serve on the real Panel.
Third, the Hearing before the Panel of 3 members of the Discipline Committee, witnesses testify under oath, testimony is recorded and a decision is made.
There are several times to settle up: before the Disclosure, after the Disclosure, before the Pre-Hearing, after the Pre-Hearing and before the Hearing and during the Hearing. This is an opportunity which should not be “lost”. Once everything is finished, then it would be too late.
On rare occasion, there is a full Hearing, as was the case here. I propose to quote from some parts of the written decision, so that you will know what happened.
Mary’s Broker of Record was upset. He had received complaints about Mary and met with a Seller. He fired Mary and reported her to RECO.
According to the Decision:
Mary …then said “I made a mistake putting her signature there. She was fine with me being her agent and was still going to use me.” Regarding the texts back and forth with the Seller, Mary... allowed “…I know now it’s wrong…it’s illegal…”
Under cross-examination …Mary… stated that she had been registered 21 years; that she didn't know she could not sign something on the Sellers behalf; that she thought it was okay.
She was directed to open Exhibit #3 to Tab 4 "B" and she admitted that she, using the Sellers names and initials (not the Sellers) had signed and initialled the document in the appropriate places.
Mary…. was then directed to the three pages of text messages attached to the Compliance Officer A letter in which she continues to refer to the listing as being refreshed and not relisted, in which she asked the Seller to reduce the price to $189,500.00 and this was refused.
She was also asked why in the new listing there were initials for a longer than six month listing, and she was asked if this was discussed with the Seller and it wasn't.
The Prosecution specifically asked: “You forged her signature?” Mary….. replied: “I guess I actually did…I should not have done that.”
The Panel questioned why the first listing was in both spouses’ names and the second listing was only in one name? Mary…. replied the property was only in the name of Seller A.
Follow-up question asked why then Seller’s A’s spouse's name was not inserted in the spousal consent section of the new listing, this section was blank. She admitted that she “missed it.”
When questioned about the signing without permission in writing, Mary…. stated she didn't think she was doing anything wrong. “I didn’t do it before. I thought texting made it all right.”
So, there you have it. Mary thought that if someone texts her, and they are a Client, then they automatically give Mary authority to sign their names. It’s true! That’s what she just said. And, you didn’t miss the part about Mary being in business for 21 years!
The decision was released on 21 December 2017. Based on these findings it is the conclusion of the Panel that:
- Mary… breached Section 3 of the Code of Ethics. Her actions as a registrant in the course of a trade in real estate were not fair, honest or conducted with integrity.
- Mary… breached Section 4 of the Code of Ethics. Her actions as a registrant did not promote and protect the best interests of her client.
- Mary… breached Section 5 of the Code of Ethics. Her actions as a registrant did not demonstrate reasonable knowledge, skill, judgment and competence in providing services to her client.
- Mary…breached Section 38 of the Code of Ethics. As a registrant her actions failed to demonstrate best efforts to prevent error, misrepresentation, fraud or any unethical practice in respect of a trade in real estate.
- Mary… breached Section 39 of the Code of Ethics. Her activities in the course of trading in real estate can reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unbecoming a registrant.
Fine of $15,000.00 payable to RECO within 90 days of sending this decision.
Successful completion of the “REIC 2600: Ethics and Business Practice” course provided by the Real Estate Institute of Canada. Provide RECO with confirmation of the successful completion of the course within 6 months of sending this decision.
The panel agreed that in imposing a penalty, there is a need for both Specific and General deterrence.
The Specific deterrence is intended to be a meaningful deterrent to the individual and not be considered the “cost of doing business” by the respondent.
The General deterrence is the importance of imposing a penalty that will show the member’s peer group that this conduct will never be taken lightly. The penalty is intended to reinforce the need to help maintain the public's confidence in the integrity of the profession.
A $15,000.00 fine for “forgery”. That’s not that bad. The other case we just looked at, the registrant was charged under the Provincial Offences Act. Even in that case, the prosecution could have laid a charge of forgery under the Criminal Code.
It's difficult to imagine that Mary went through every step incuding the FULL HEARING, and offered "no defence".
Note: As a rule, I use fictitious names. The actual case is published on RECO’s website and is available to the public. For educational purposes, the names of the parties really don’t have any bearing. If you need to quote the case, you will have to obtain the proper legal citation.
Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker