Ethics Corner — RAHB members and directional signs

RAHB members are required to comply with all municipal sign bylaws:

MLS® Rules & Regulations, Section 10 – Advertising
10.03  Signs giving notice of sale, rent, lease, development, exchange or open house …may only be erected on locations that conform with Municipal and Provincial sign legislation, all applicable laws, regulations, codes and bylaws.…

Members must abide by the sign bylaws of the municipality/region in which the listed property is located:

Burlington – By-law No. 034-2007 (Click on “Download Original By-law” – see especially page 19)

Grimsby – By-law No. 97-45

Haldimand – By-law No. 1064/10 (references throughout the document)

Hamilton – By-Law No. 10-197 (see especially page 27)

Why is it important?
Open house/directional sign bylaws exist to ensure that sight lines for drivers and pedestrians are unobstructed and, in some cases, so that signs are not left to clutter boulevards, medians, etc.

If RAHB members do not comply with municipal sign bylaws, they may be seen as causing a visual distraction, adding to what may be perceived as unsightly clutter, and as lacking professionalism.


  • Municipalities have fines for removing and storing signs that don’t comply with their bylaws
  • A complaint may be filed with RAHB’s Professional Standards Committee

If you see a sign that doesn’t comply with municipal bylaws, you can:

  • Contact the owner of the sign and remind him or her of the sign bylaw for that municipality
  • Contact the municipality in which the sign is located and let them deal with it as a non-compliant sign
  • Take a time- and date-stamped photo clearly showing the location of the sign and forward it to the RAHB Professional Standards Committee (c/o Angela at the RAHB office – along with a letter of complaint that cites the bylaw that is being breached. Note: RAHB cannot enforce the municipality’s sign bylaw; it can only enforce its rule requiring compliance with the bylaw

Be aware that bylaws differ from municipality to municipality, so what is non-compliant in Burlington, for example, may be compliant in Grimsby or Hamilton or Haldimand.

If you see a sign that doesn’t comply with municipal bylaws, you should NEVER remove the sign – members may never interfere with another member’s sign.

Your questions about pre-emptive (bully) offers answered!

Members have been asking about how to deal with pre-emptive, or bully, offers.  You asked, we answer.

Q. When a Seller says “No offers until …”, can I present an offer that comes in before the date specified?

A. The short answer is No. When a seller provides written instructions, via OREA Form 244 “Seller’s Direction re Property/Offers”, that offers will be held until a particular date, those instructions must be followed to the letter.

Q. What if the buyer insists on having the offer presented?

A. The buyer will have to wait with everyone else or walk away … the instructions from the Seller are that no offers will be presented until a specified date in the future.

Q. What if the Seller changes his or her mind and wants to see an offer?

A. In this case, and you are the listing salesperson, you must do two things:

  1. Change the remarks section of your listing to remove the “no offers until” notation
  2. Contact all the Co-operating Salespeople who showed an interest in presenting offers or who registered offers and arrange for a time for offer presentation of all offers

These two steps should be performed with all reasonable speed.  Now that offers are being presented to your Seller, you want to make sure the Seller has the opportunity to review all offers to they can get the best outcome on the sale of their home.

(Note:  as good practice, you should also contact all Co-operating Salespeople who showed the property and let them know offers are being presented – they may have clients or customers who were holding off making a decision about making an offer until closer to the date specified for offer presentations.)

Q. What about “No offers until (specified date), but the Seller will review offers prior to this date”?

A. This is a bit of an odd instruction, because it’s really saying the Seller will look at offers whenever they come in. However, if you have a Seller who mostly wants to wait for offers but will look at something that comes in before the specified date, here’s what you do:

  1. Have your Seller complete Form 244 “Seller’s Direction re: Property/Offers” and make a note of the full instructions in the Remarks section of the listing.
  2. If you get an offer before the specified date and the Seller wants to review the offer, contact all Co-Operating Salespeople who registered offers to let them know they can present their offers as well.

Again, to be sure you are being fair to everyone and you are working in the best interests of your Seller, you should also contact the Co-operating Salespeople who showed the property to let them know that offers are being presented, just in case their buyers are interested in putting in an offer.

You should be contacting the Co-operating Salespeople with reasonable speed so your Seller has the chance to review all offers and get the best outcome on the sale of their home.

Q. What do you do if someone isn’t following the rules?

A. If you find yourself in a situation where the listing brokerage didn’t let you know that offers were being presented before the time noted on the listing, you should file a formal complaint with either RAHB’s Professional Standards Committee or RECO. For more information about how to file a complaint, contact Angela at or 905.529.8101.

New procedure for listings for sale and for lease

Before RAHB listings were uploaded to Matrix, you were able to load listings into Fusion which were both for sale and for lease on one MLS® number. Members searching for listings that were only for sale or only for lease would see your listing because that’s the way Fusion worked.

Matrix, however, operates differently.  If you have a property that is both for sale and for lease, you MUST broker load the listing twice in Fusion: one listing for sale only and the other for lease only. This is the only way to ensure that your listing will be visible to others searching in Matrix if they are searching for only leases or only sales.

If you have existing listings that are For Lease or Sale, you can edit them – change the original to a sale and then upload a duplicate for the lease.

As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch with the RAHB MLS® Department at 905.667.4650.

Yes, you must cancel that appointment – here’s why

The following case study is taken from the Professional Standards files of the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington. 


Salesperson A contacted ABC Brokerage Realty Inc. to make an appointment to view 123 Anywhere Street.   Upon driving by 123 Anywhere Street, the Buyer Clients decided they did not like the location and declined to view the property.   Salesperson A did not contact the Listing Brokerage or the Seller to indicate they would not be attending the appointment.

The Sellers were extremely upset as they had had to tidy up and get three young children and two dogs out of the house, only to find out that no one showed up for the appointment. They expressed their disappointment and frustration to their Sales Representative that the other Sales Representative acted  “unprofessional” and lacked courtesy for not advising they had to cancel the appointment.

The Listing Sales Representative filed a complaint with the Professional Standards Committee against Salesperson A.

Salesperson A opted for an Abbreviated Hearing for a breach of the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton Burlington Rules and Regulations, Section 8 – Selling Procedures, Sub- Section 8.04 which states:

If a Member is unable to keep an appointment, the Member shall:

  1. where the appointment was made directly with the Listing Brokerage, advise the Listing Brokerage, or if direct contact with the Listing Brokerage is not possible, advise the Seller directly; or
  2. where the appointment was made directly with Seller as permitted under these Rules, advise the Seller directly.

The Member was assessed $250 Hearing Costs and a $500 fine.


Moral of the story:
Members are responsible for notifying the Listing Brokerage or Seller if they are not able to keep their appointment.  Not cancelling an appointment is not only considered as “unprofessional” by both the consumer and fellow members, but is also a breach of RAHB’s Rules and Regulations, and shows a lack of respect to all parties involved.

Professional Standards – Golden Rule

The busy spring market is upon us and it’s time for a reminder about how important it is to treat clients, customers and fellow REALTORS® with respect.  This article is reprinted from the November, 2014 issue of REALINFO … it’s as timely now as it was then.

The Golden Rule is getting tarnished

Almost everyone has heard of the Golden Rule:    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The Golden rule is a philosophical, sociological and religious maxim.  It is also the basis for CREA’s and RECO’s Code of Ethics and the basis for what we refer to as “common courtesy”.

RAHB has been receiving complaints for the last few months about how uncommon courtesy has become among members.  Do any of these situations sound familiar?

  • You call to book an appointment to show a property only to be told the seller requires “24 hours notice”, although it wasn’t indicated on the listing?
  • Someone scheduled a showing of your listing but didn’t leave a business card to let the seller know they were there?  Or worse, they didn’t show up at all?
  • Getting feedback from a salesperson after he or she showed your listed property is impossible?

Apparently the Golden Rule is getting a little tarnished in many places.  The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) provided the following guidelines for its members in the US to remind them of the importance of common courtesy – or, as they’ve termed it, showing respect – for the public, for property and for other REALTORS®.

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start for making courtesy a little more common again.

Respect for the Public

  1. Follow the “Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
  3. Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
  4. Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
  5. If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
  6. Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
  7. When entering a property, ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
  8. Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
  9. Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
  10. Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
  11. When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock – and announce yourself loudly – before entering.  Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
  12. Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
  13. If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
  14. Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
  15. Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
  16. Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
  17. Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
  18. Be aware of – and meet – all deadlines.
  19. Promise only what you can deliver – and keep your promises.
  20. Identify your REALTOR®and your professional status in contacts with the public.
  21. Do not tell people what you think – tell them what you know.

Respect for Property

  1. Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter a listed property.
  2. Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied.
  3. When showing property, keep all members of the group together.
  4. Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.
  5. Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination.
  6. When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it (lights, heating, cooling, drapes, etc).  If you think something is amiss (e.g. vandalism) contact the listing broker immediately.
  7. Be considerate of the seller’s property.  Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets.  Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.
  8. Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.

Respect for Peers

  1. Identify your REALTOR® and professional status in all contacts with other REALTORS®.
  2. Respond to other agents’ calls, faxes, and e-mails promptly and courteously.
  3. Be aware that large electronic files with attachments or lengthy faxes may be a burden on recipients.
  4. Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
  5. Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets; security systems; and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
  6. Show courtesy, trust and respect to other real estate professionals.
  7. Avoid the inappropriate use of endearments or other denigrating language.
  8. Do not prospect at other REALTORS® open houses or similar events.
  9. Return keys promptly.
  10. Carefully replace keys in the lockbox after showings.
  11. To be successful in the business, mutual respect is essential.
  12. Real estate is a reputation business.  What you do today may affect your reputation – and business – for years to come.

Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission


5 Things to remember when advertising

by Mark Weisleder

When advertising to the general public, here are five lessons to remember to avoid complaints from your fellow REALTORS®, the general public or your Provincial Regulator.

1. Be careful when the home has an illegal basement apartment or second unit.

There are thousands of illegal second units across Canada. Buyers still want to buy them for the income.  However, buyers must also remember that if a neighbour complains, the City may force the tenant to be evicted, or may ask for thousands of dollars to upgrade the unit to meet applicable building code requirements. You cannot advertise the property as an “income property” if you know it is illegal. You can say that the seller does not warrant that the unit is properly retrofitted, as most REALTORS® prefer to say, to warn potential buyers of the issue. If you state that the property was a “potential income property”, it would depend on what would have to be done to make the unit legal to determine whether even that statement was misleading.

2. Be diligent but also use disclaimers when you are not sure.

When describing lot sizes or square footage, do not rely on any expired listing. Conduct due diligence.  However, since there is confusion as to whether the square footage is calculated to the inside or outside walls, or whether a loft is properly calculated, do not be afraid to insert a disclaimer when you are not sure.  This will put the buyer on notice that if any measurement really matters to them, they will get the property measured themselves. It is not easy for buyers to cancel deals when they find errors in square footage, unless it was significant and the buyer can demonstrate that they were relying on the square footage as a key factor when they signed to buy the property in the first place.

3. If you run a contest, make sure you consult with your local regulator as well as the Competition Bureau.

Contests can generate a lot of interest and as such, they also generate a lot of attention, especially from your competitors. Perhaps a vacation prize awarded to one person out of everyone who signs a listing with your brokerage during the upcoming 3 month period.  Do not mislead anyone about the prize or chances of winning or you could face sever monetary penalties. You must clearly disclose the number and approximate prize values, the geographical area or areas it relates to and any fact that may materially affect the odds of winning. Avoid charging money for tickets as it may be considered gambling. You may want to prepare a short version of all contest terms for general advertising and a long form available on your website. If you are not sure, check in advance with your Provincial regulator and contact the Competition Bureau for further information.

4. Be able to prove it if you say you are #1

There is nothing wrong in advertising that you are number 1, as long as you can answer the simple where, when and how. What time period is involved, example the calendar year 2015, what area, example Scarborough and how was it calculated, example number of units or dollar value. As long as it is true, it is generally ok. I remember someone once advertised they were the number 1 team in their brokerage. Turns out they were number 1, but they were also the ONLY team in the brokerage. Not a good plan.

5. If there is a history, suggest contacting listing broker before submitting any offer

None will suggest that you advertise “murder house” or “recent flood”, but in many situations, it will be necessary to advise buyers about certain stigmas or damages prior to the buyer submitting any offer.  It is always safer to disclose a stigma, to avoid potential lawsuits or disciplinary proceedings later.  When you are not sure, ask for legal advice before putting the home on the market.

Reprinted with permission

Ethics Corner

This article appeared in RECO’s ‘For the RECOrd’, April 24, 2015, and is reprinted with permission.

Clear communication leads to success

Communicating frequently. Providing sound, accurate advice. Making commitments and keeping them. These are the hallmarks of professionalism and key to your success as a real estate professional. As one registrant recently learned, even a typo can have big consequences.

Keeping your clients in the loop is not just a courtesy, it will tell them that you are on top of things and provide them with confidence that the transaction is unfolding as it should.

Even if the news isn’t great – like a showing that has been cancelled – it is best to keep the lines of communication open to show that you are following through on your professional commitments and doing your best to sell the home.

Failing to communicate properly with your client can have undesirable consequences and can certainly undermine your reputation as a professional.

A good example of a breakdown in communication between salesperson and a seller happened last year and required mediation to resolve the seller’s complaint to RECO.

In this case, the salesperson did not obtain any offers on the property after numerous showings. The salesperson, in an email to the seller, suggested reducing the asking price by $114,000. The seller couldn’t afford that reduction and asked the salesperson to cancel the listing agreement, but the Broker of Record refused to do so.

The seller complained to RECO, and the dispute went to mediation. During that process, the salesperson realized she had made a typo in the email to the seller – the reduction should have been $14,000 rather than $114,000. After the error was discovered, both parties agreed to a listing agreement for a $14,000 reduction in the sales price.

In this case, the misunderstanding was completely preventable. Had the salesperson met or spoken with the seller directly, chances are the mistake would not have been made. And, if a meeting or phone call wasn’t an option, a more careful reading of the email before it was sent off to the seller may have avoided the mistake. Even if the typo slipped through, when the seller asked to cancel the listing agreement, the Broker of Record could have taken a closer look at the situation and spotted the error.

To learn more, check out a new video ( that talks about the importance of open and honest.

Ethics Corner

When is permission to advertise not permission to advertise?

The following decision from RECO Discipline and Appeals Hearings was recently published in the OREA “Edge”.  The full case has been condensed and all names have been changed. (more…)

Ethics Corner – The Golden Rule is getting tarnished

Almost everyone has heard of the Golden Rule:    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The Golden rule is a philosophical, sociological and religious maxim.  It is also the basis for CREA’s and RECO’s Code of Ethics and the basis for what we refer to as “common courtesy”. (more…)

Ethics Corner

How do you know what RECO Code of Ethics really means?  Here are two scenarios of how the directive for fairness and honesty can play out in a REALTORS® dealings with the public.

Ethics Corner – Answer

The situation from last month :

Sophie Salesperson was the target of verbal abuse and disparaging comments at her public open house.  The abuser was Mary, a new salesperson from another Brokerage.  Was there anything Sophie could do about Mary? (more…)