Realtor Rules to Live By

Realtor ethics | BCBusiness
Potential sellers and buyers should examine all options before committing to a realtor

Real estate sales are on the decline, leaving realtors fighting for a slice of an increasingly shrinking pie and ensuring that they remain keenly aware of their professional duties

Realtor ethics is bandied about as an oxymoron. But as real estate is a self-regulated industry, as are other professions such as law, accounting and pharmacy, realtors are subject to a strict set of standards and guidelines and it’s important that any potential buyer or seller know these rules before beginning their search for representation.


The Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) licenses realtors by the provisions of the Real Estate Services Act (RESA). RECBC is responsible for compliance to the Act, and its first priority is protection of the public. RECBC responds to questions and complaints that may arise when dealing with the complexities of selling or buying real estate. It’s easy to check if anyone licensed under the Act has been formally reprimanded, as the findings of RECBC are posted on their website. Not all complaints though are handled by the RECBC, and those that aren’t might be addressed at one of the Real Estate Boards instead.


Not understanding agency is the cause behind many complaints that come from the public. Designated agency means that I, the realtor, would have the sole responsibility to my client, and must put their interests above all others. I can’t disclose their motivation for selling, what their bottom line price is or any other details that they would like to remain private. While I have a duty to co-operate with other agents, I can’t treat them so fairly as to disadvantage my client. However, my job is to sell the home, so it’s important that I treat unrepresented buyers with courtesy.

Personal responsibilities

Realtors are obligated to maintain legal training in a single licensing cycle. Criminal record checks are required for new licensees and verification that no charges have been filed against an existing licensee in any cycle must be verified. To be a licensed realtor you can’t have filed for bankruptcy, your education must be up to date and you can’t have had an outstanding disciplinary action.

Realtors must not…

Realtors can’t call you if you are under contract with someone else. They cannot disclose your personal information without your express permission. They can’t advertise the price you sold your house at, and they can’t create a flyer saying that your house is “sold” unless they are the selling or buying agent. They can’t make unsubstantiated claims (#1 negotiator or top salesman) in their advertising. They aren’t allowed to sell your contact information to moving companies and they speak poorly of other realtors. They also cannot post their listings on Craigslist and pretend to be a “for sale by owner” offer.

There are many more rules and obligations under RECBC and the boards. If you feel that you have not been represented appropriately or fairly, call the realtor, then their broker and, finally, call the Real Estate Board or RECBC. The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board posts this helpful link on their website.

The industry is yearning to prove its value and those few bad apples warrant your complaints. I’m interested in your experiences. Feel free to email me, or comment below.


A lisenced realtor and seasoned expert, Leah Bach has extensive experience in the Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland’s real estate markets, including New Westminster, Burnaby and Delta. A past blogger for BCBusiness, Bach has advanced training in purchasing, negotiations and risk management. | Twitter