Prominent Edmonton Re/MAX real estate salesman Terry Paranych has had his licence suspended for three months and will have to pay fines and costs totalling $96,000 following a hearing into his advertising practices.
Paranych must also complete a real estate training course and all related exams, the Real Estate Council of Alberta said in a ruling Monday.
He won't be able to trade in real estate again until he pays $64,500 in fines and $31,500 in costs.
Paranych was found to have breached the council's rules 25 times in 2012 and 2013 by using advertising that was misleading to the public or incapable of verification.
He defended his ads as "mere puffery" but the hearing panel found the breaches were serious and deserved sanction.
"For instance, a number of Mr. Paranych's advertisements claim that he is the '#1 agent in Canada' or 'no one sells more homes,' " the hearing panel found.
"These claims are inaccurate because they do not inform the public that Mr. Paranych's sales and statistics are limited solely to Re/MAX. Mr. Paranych does not have statistics of other real estate associates' performance if they work for a non Re/MAX brokerage."
The ads may deceive the public into believing that Paranych is the No. 1 agent across all brokerages in Canada, the panel found, but "there is no evidence that this is the case."
Other statements in Paranych's advertising included claims that can't be verified, such as selling homes "quickly" and "for top dollar," or having the "best" or "most sophisticated" search engine, the panel said.
Didn't sell more than 700 homes a year
Other ads contained inaccurate information, including an often-used claim that Paranych's real estate team sells over 700 homes a year, the council found.
"Mr. Paranych's evidence, including home sales and commissions that he introduced through cross-examination and his own exhibits, was that he only once sold over 700 homes, back in 2006.
"Between the years of 2007-2011, he did not sell over 700 homes and only sold between 412 and 691 homes per year."
Paranych was also found to be in breach of a rule that restricts a real estate broker to advertising only those incentives that are provided by the brokerage with which he or she is registered.
He had used ads that said if he didn't sell the client's home in 30 days, he would buy it. But the ads didn't mention his brokerage, or the disclosure required under the Re/MAX guaranteed sales policy.
The real estate council said the matter had "a lengthy procedural history" dating back to January 2012, when Paranych was first notified of a professional conduct hearing in relation to some of his advertising.
Paranych fought the council over rules and procedures and referred to the disciplinary process in messages to the council's executive director as a "witch hunt" and "bullshit." The case went to a four-day hearing in November 2015.
Two decisions were made public Monday — the panel's decision with respect to conduct deserving of sanction, dated Sept. 12, 2016, and its decision with respect to sanction and costs, dated April 6, 2017.
The second decision says that in written submissions, Paranych told the real estate council that "no one complained about his advertising and that there is no evidence of harm to the public … He states that he was previously too busy to pay attention to his advertising but that the hearing panel decision was sobering and he now realizes the seriousness of his conduct."
25 breaches of rules
The hearing panel found Paranych engaged in conduct deserving of sanctions a total of 25 times in 2012 and 2013, including that he:
- made representations or carried on conduct that was reckless or intentional and that misled or deceived any person or was likely to do so (14 times)
- engaged in conduct that undermines public confidence in the industry, harms the integrity of the industry, or brings the industry into disrepute (six times)
- did not ensure that in any communication, advertising or marketing material there was no suggestion, implication or statement that may suggest or lead the public to believe an unlicensed or unregistered assistant is qualified to trade in real estate, deal in mortgages, or perform real estate appraisals, as the case may be (two times)
In November 2016, two months after the panel's decision on his conduct had been served on him, Paranych wrote a letter of apology to the council's executive director and to the hearing panel.
"At no point prior to the decision being released did Mr. Paranych take any responsibility or ownership for his conduct," the panel wrote in its decision on sanctions and costs. The decision says the panel didn't give "much weight" to the apology, which "came late in the disciplinary proceedings."
The real estate council said Paranych "has a lengthy disciplinary history" of rule breaches dating back to 2000. He has been warned and fined in the past and ordered to upgrade his education "but this has not deterred his behaviour," the council said.
Paranych was previously registered as a real estate associate with Re/MAX Elite and most recently registered with Re/MAX Excellence.