Dealing with complaints
| August 24, 2015
You market. You hire. You train. You’re a broker. That’s what you do and you likely do it well. But, do you know that dealing with consumer complaints is also part of your role?
Sometimes providing services to the public as a real estate or mortgage professional doesn’t go as planned. Things happen. Sometimes there are misunderstandings. Sometimes you may deal with difficult individuals. There are a number of reasons why a consumer could be unhappy with a transaction or the services the brokerage provided. How do you deal with complaints?
Brokers should have a brokerage policy for handling consumer complaints. Real estate and mortgage associates should do their best to address any minor issues a consumer raises, in a professional manner. And they should document how they address those issues. If the consumer still isn’t satisfied or the issues they raise are serious—you need to involve your broker as soon as possible.
Brokers have an obligation to deal with complaints once they become aware of them. They need to take reasonable steps to address misconduct by their associates.
A typical broker process for dealing with consumer complaints would be to:
- speak to the associate and the consumer to get their account of the issue
- review the brokerage file and communication between the parties
- speak to any witnesses or other relevant parties, as required
- summarize your findings and keep that on file
- follow-up with the consumer
Sometimes a broker will determine there hasn’t been any wrongdoing by the associate, but the consumer still won’t be happy. In these cases, the individual may file a complaint with RECA.
When RECA receives a complaint, it impartially reviews it to determine what happened and whether there was a breach of legislation. During this review process, RECA often asks the broker to provide information on how they handled the consumer’s complaint, if they were made aware of it. RECA may hold the broker accountable if the broker was aware of the complaint and didn’t take reasonable steps to deal with it. On the other hand, brokers that deal with complaints in a reasonable matter when they are brought to their attention have the potential to mitigate an outcome.
Brokers play a very important role in the regulation of the real estate and mortgage brokerage sectors and a key part of that is dealing with consumer complaints. If you come across an issue you are not familiar with—turn to a mentor or in the case of real estate, RECA’s practice advisor is available to provide confidential advice.