Sask. real estate body under investigation

The practices of the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission are under investigation following complaints raised by a former auditor of the agency.

The practices of the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission are under investigation following complaints raised by a former auditor of the agency.

The commission is an industry body that oversees real estate agents in the province.

A government official has confirmed to CBC News that investigators are actively examining the allegations raised in a complaint by Allan York, who resigned from the commission in June after five years.

York told CBC News he believes the commission has not done an effective job of oversight.

"The whole mandate was public protection," York told CBC News in a recent interview. "And I was travelling out through the province in the last five years. I just couldn't see that."

York said he outlined his concerns in a five-page document for government officials.

CBC News contacted the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission which declined requests for an interview.

According to York, the commission uses only a fraction of its annual $1 million budget to investigate complaints about real estate agents and to inform the public of its role.

Early case typical

He said one of the first cases he encountered while at the commission led him to question how the body operates.

York said he worked on a complaint raised by Regina homeowner Lynette Fitzelle, who was not happy with the real estate agent who handled the sale of her property.

Fitzelle told CBC News that she believed the agent acted against her best interests.

"I was having problems with the real estate agent," Fitzelle said. "I realized he was not doing things right. He was being unscrupulous."

York said he remembers that it took almost four years for the commission to finally deal with the complaint and then, even though he thought the agent committed serious breaches, the commission simply levied a fine.

"I really expected with the severity of what the charges were in front of us, and with the registrant having previous sanctions, that they would in fact take sanctions against his license," York said about the case, which the commission closed in 2007. "That didn't happen."

Instead, York said, the errant agent paid $7,000 in fines to the commission.

York said since that case typified, for him, how the commission would handle consumer complaints.

"The people who came forward with complaints weren't satisfied," York said.

He finally left the commission and shared his concerns with provincial authorities.

Province launches probe

Jim Hall, the government's supervisor of the real estate sector, told CBC News they are taking York's concerns seriously adding an investigation on a number of allegations has begun.

"We started, and we'll carry through each one of those things," Hall said. "I can't give you a time frame but it's not something that's going to sit on the backburner. It's being addressed as we speak."

Fitzelle said she is hoping the provincial scrutiny of the commission leads to changes.

"I just hope today that somehow something could happen with the real estate commission, things could be changed where the consumer is protected," Fitzelle said.