Written service agreements: should vs. must Image

Written service agreements: should vs. must


Think back to October 2006. The Real Estate Council of Alberta introduced new Real Estate Act Rules, in which, section 43 required industry members to use written service agreements at all times unless waived in writing by a client/customer. In December 2006, Council changed the “must use written service agreements” to “should use written service agreements.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary (www.m-w.com) defines “must” as to “be commanded or requested to,” “to be obliged to,” and most importantly, “to be required by law, custom, or moral conscience.” Should, on the other hand, is defined by that same dictionary as “used in auxiliary function to express obligation,” and “used in auxiliary function to express a request in a polite manner.”

In both cases, the words imply something occurring. The only slight difference is whether that occurrence is required by law or suggested as the best course of action.

RECA believes, much as it did in 2006, that written service agreements are the best way for industry members to enjoy positive working relationships with consumers. Written service agreements identify the service provider, services to be provided, compensation to be paid, obligations of the industry member and consumer, and duration of the agreement. They protect consumers and industry members in the event a dispute arises regarding any aspect of the service relationship. In short, written service agreements bring certainty, clarity and professionalism to the relationships between industry members and consumers.

When a complaint is filed with RECA, RECA will explore all aspects of the conduct in question. In particular, RECA will examine whether the industry member’s role and the services to be provided were clearly understood and agreed to by the consumer. This is a basic obligation for all industry members and the starting point of any investigation.

If, during the course of an investigation, there was uncertainty or a dispute as to the nature of services provided or whether the industry member fulfilled their obligations, RECA will seek clarification by reviewing the service agreement between the parties. If there is no written service agreement to settle any uncertainties or disputes, the lack of a written agreement is likely to be an aggravating factor should the matter proceed to a disciplinary hearing.

As RECA continues to promote professional conduct by all industry members, the rationale for use of written agreements is self-evident. This applies whether providing services to owners, buyers, borrowers, landlords, tenants, lenders, borrowers or investors.

Do you use written service agreements in all of your dealings with clients?

“Do you think written service agreements should be mandatory?”