by Robert Laing
Do the legal and real estate professions have anything in common? From the British Columbia Real Estate Association’s (BCREA) perspective, there are more similarities than differences.
For many years BCREA and CBABC have held joint copyright on the standard form most critical to a real estate transaction: the Contract of Purchase and Sale. The contract was originally developed by the two organizations through BCREA’s Standard Forms Committee, and a CBA representative has been a member of that committee since it was created.
There are two reasons this partnership has been so successful. First, both the legal and real estate professions recognize each other’s strengths. Real estate agents’ experience in the market and with clients matched with lawyers’ education and ability to draft legal documents has resulted in a well recognized and respected standard form. Second, both professions are genuinely concerned for the welfare of their clients. A carefully crafted contract ensures buyers and sellers are adequately protected in the transaction. It also creates an atmosphere of certainty, which is important when people are making some of the largest purchases of their lives.
A recent example of our shared concern for real estate consumers is the Law Society of B.C.’s draft rules regarding the use of unlicensed staff in real estate transactions. In 2003, BCREA learned that some law firms used unlicensed assistants to market real estate listings, without disclosing that these individuals were not lawyers.
When BCREA brought this matter to the Law Society’s attention in September 2003, we were pleased with the quick action that was taken. The Law Society immediately struck a task force to examine the role of lawyers’ employees in real estate transactions. The recommendations of this task force were tabled in late January 2004. BCREA was again pleased to see that they closely mirror the restrictions imposed on unlicensed real estate assistants by the Real Estate Council of B.C.
It must be said that some obvious differences exist between us. BCREA has gotten a clear response from real estate agents around the province that they do not consider active soliciting and marketing of real estate listings to be the ordinary course of business for lawyers. The Law Society has been equally clear that it believes this does fall under the practice of law. Despite this difference of opinion, we have agreed to disagree and to carry on with the business at hand.
For example, BCREA and the CBABC recently submitted a joint letter to the provincial government regarding a potential licensing exemption under the Real Estate Act for accountants. Both organizations believe that the lack of an adequate regulatory scheme for accountants puts consumers at too great a risk.
The two professions also have common interests in protecting B.C.’s Torrens land title system and the rights of property owners. Legislation at the municipal, provincial and federal levels continually and increasingly erodes the rights of owners with respect to the use of their property, usually without any notice being filed in the Land Title Office and without appropriate compensation and appeal processes.
By combining the efforts of nearly 13,000 real estate agents and 10,000 lawyers, we are sure to have an impact on legislative developments. By working in the best interests of real estate consumers and sharing our respective expertise, we accomplish our most basic mission: to serve our clients.
BCREA looks forward to long and productive relationships with the CBABC, the Law Society and the Society of Notaries Public of B.C.
Robert Laing is the Executive Officer of the British Columbia Real Estate Association. For 20 years, Mr. Laing has served the real estate profession in the roles of lawyer, educator and liaison to all levels of government, crown corporations and regulatory bodies. Before joining BCREA, Mr. Laing was the head of UBC’s Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration’s Real Estate Division, where he focused on developing and delivering pre-licensing and continuing education to the real estate profession.
This article was published in the April 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.