Published on: October 11, 2016
Article number: 202445

I filed a complaint: What happens next?

You filed a complaint with the OACIQ about the conduct of a broker and you got a letter from the Syndic informing you that your request was received? Under which circumstances does he decide to conduct an investigation and what are his powers? Here are a few answers.

Investigation or not?
The Syndic is the guardian of the professional integrity of real estate and mortgage brokers and agencies operating in Québec. He ensures that these professionals respect the rules of professional conduct contained in the Real Estate Brokerage Act. By acting in this way, the Syndic assumes his public protection role.

More specifically, the Syndic's role is to investigate, upon a notice from the Assistant Department, any alleged violation of the Real Estate Brokerage Act and its regulations by a broker or an agency, including a director or agency executive officer. A request for assistance may come from both the general public and a licence holder. All Syndic's investigation records are, by law, confidential.

Confidentiality of Syndic's records of investigation

To this effect, section 4 of the Regulation respecting disciplinary proceedings of the OACIQ reads as follows:

The syndic and assistant syndics, as well as any personnel they hire for the conduct of their office, must take all necessary measures to protect the confidentiality of records of inquiry at all times. Therefore, no document or recording obtained during the investigation can be remitted. In the event of a case, the documents submitted to the Discipline Committee could become public as of their submission date.

As he must be able to conduct his investigation based on his judgment without being influenced by anyone, the Syndic is independent and has the powers of an investigation commissioner, except the power to order imprisonment. He can:

  • interrogate a broker, an agency and its executive officers and directors, as well as any other witnesses, who are obliged to answer his questions;
  • issue a warrant against a witness;
  • decide who should be interrogated, which documents will be examined and which aspects of broker's conduct will be analyzed.

In his investigation, the Syndic is not limited to the specific aspect complained of by the person who requested the investigation. His mandate, which is part of the OACIQ public protection mission, requires him to be on the lookout for any ethical offence or misconduct (see the box below) and to file a complaint about them, where appropriate. The syndic investigates and files a complaint before the Discipline Committee, where applicable.

The Syndic may decide not to file a complaint under the following circumstances:

  • The misconduct is not ethical. It can be a civil fault or a technical error;
  • The Syndic is not deeply convinced that the agency or broker concerned committed a disciplinary offence;
  • The evidence is not clear and convincing enough to conclude that a breach was committed (due to a lack of credibility of the main witness, insufficient evidence, several contradictions in the case, etc.);
  • The syndic decided to close the file after obtaining a commitment from the broker to respect the Act and its regulations, or after ordering him or her to complete a training activity.


What happens once the investigation is completed?
Once the investigation is completed, the Syndic determines whether or not to file a complaint before the OACIQ Discipline Committee.

His decision will be based on factors such as the quality of evidence obtained, credibility of witnesses, or the jurisprudence of the OACIQ Discipline Committee. Here again, he has free reign to decide, for example, which accusation counts to file and their content (in accordance with the provisions of section 159, par. 4 of the OACIQ Internal By-laws).

The Syndic shall also inform, in writing and within a reasonable time frame, any person who requested the investigation of this decision. If this is your case, you have 30 days following receipt of this information to request an opinion from the Syndic Decision Review Committee if you are not satisfied.

Can I be compensated?
A disciplinary measure will not in itself allow you to get financial compensation for the damage sustained. However, based on the request filed with the Assistance Department, your claim can be forwarded to Fonds d’assurance responsabilité du courtage immobilier du Québec (in case of broker error or omission), or to the Indemnity Committee (in case of fraud or misappropriation).

Questions?
You may:

What's an ethical misconduct?
An ethical misconduct results from a conduct that falls below an acceptable behaviour. An agency or broker may adopt a conduct that deviates from the desirable behaviour without being unacceptable. In this case, he/she is not committing an ethical misconduct.

To consider that an ethical misconduct is committed, there should be more than one violation, and that this act should be serious enough, regardless of whether or not it caused damage. Here are a few examples of conducts considered as disciplinary offences: extraordinary awkwardness, exaggerated ignorance, unforgivable carelessness, laxity, and lack of diligence in following up on a file. Failure to keep one's professional knowledge current can also be included in this list.