Brokerages Facing Fallout from Humber College Real Estate Program “Misconduct” Investigation

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The Ontario Real Estate Board has announced that it is revoking the registrations of 34 people who completed the Humber Real Estate Education program in 2021 after Humber informed the regulator of a scheme of what it called “Willful and organized misconduct” during examinations.MARK BLINCH / Reuters

Real estate brokers whose businesses have been affected by a “learner misconduct” investigation at Humber College are wondering why it took months for the Ontario regulator to act on the matter.

On November 2, the Ontario Real Estate Board announced it was revoking the registrations of 34 people who completed the Humber Real Estate Education program in 2021. Press releases indicated that RECO acted after Humber informed the ‘regulator of a scheme of what it called “deliberate.” and organized misconduct ”during examinations.

“I am really disappointed with Humber,” said Ajay Shah, broker of record for Homelife / Miracle Realty Ltd. “What kind of quality do they offer? Who knows how many have gone through the cracks, and these people are going to handle millions of dollars in sales. The brokerage, which has offices in Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton and Mississauga, had hired three of the recently suspended individuals. “A question I ask myself every morning: If people get caught cheating in a different way, why do they continue to take this program online?” “

In 2021, Humber became the only training program for real estate professionals in Ontario, taking over this role from the Ontario Real Estate Association. Mr. Shah and other The Globe and Mail brokers have spoken out to question the security and integrity of Humber’s all-digital online review process in light of this unprecedented wave of revocations. In addition to fully online courses, Humber students can schedule their final exam at times that work best for them and take the tests on any computer. The digital switch-over is a change from OREA’s method of in-person examination rooms and is potentially less secure than what other professional bodies demand. Even during the pandemic, organizations such as the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada had in-person oversight of their accounting exams.

Humber or RECO did not provide details on how the ‘learner’s fault’ was organized, but said screen mirroring software was detected on a candidate’s machine. exam, which opens up the possibility for exam questions to be copied and shared with future candidates. . Some of the real estate agents whose licenses have been revoked have spoken to The Globe on the condition that they are not identified. One said they would have completed the test too quickly – a red flag for Humber’s digital overseers. Humber said he reported the matter to the Toronto Police Department, but details of the cases are confidential.

“I have been a Broker-Owner for 32 years and have never seen anything like it,” said Marilyn Ruttan, Case Broker for RE / MAX By the Bay Brokerage in Wasaga Beach. She urges RECO and Humber to give more opportunities to appeal or address academic concerns, as the results could lead to loss of livelihoods.

Ms Ruttan had hired one of Humber’s students, Rashika David, over the summer and was shocked to discover months later that there was an alleged issue with her credentials. Ms David claims she did not receive an email notification from Humber and did not know until October that there was something wrong. Ms Ruttan argues that instead of just emailing, Humber should send a copy of the academic misconduct allegations by registered mail, much like RECO does when an application issue arises.

“I really believe some of these people cheated, but Rashika absolutely didn’t,” Ms. Ruttan said. “Humber has no obligation to send her proof that she cheated, and RECO has automatically revoked her license. It’s shocking to me that the college has been given so much power. She urges RECO to create an appeal board – separate from Humber – where registrants can justify maintaining their license. Ms David declined to comment.

Mr Shah is also furious that Humber first discovered some of the issues as early as April or May, and that RECO was also made aware of the allegations dating back to that date.

“Humber College informed RECO of the misconduct once Humber confirmed the allegations in May 2021,” RECO said in a statement he attributed to Registrar Joseph Richer. RECO declined to make Mr. Richer or any other RECO official available for an interview on the matter, but said in a statement that once Humber has completed its review and appeal process for all affected students , he acted quickly to revoke the registration of those concerned. .

In the months between when RECO knew there was an investigation and when they revoked the licenses, several of the agents in question worked on home sales, signed off clients and processed the type of information. private and sensitive financial instruments that accompany a real estate transaction.

Mr Shah compared the situation to that of a doctor providing care to patients while undergoing a malpractice investigation by his medical school: hospitals and patients most likely would have liked be informed of education issues as early as possible. Worse yet, he says he has months bringing in 50 agents to one of his brokerage’s five branches and is now hesitant to hire recent Humber graduates. “I don’t have any sort of litmus test for saying ‘okay’ or not. … I just have to assume that if someone comes to my table, they really did? he said.

The revoked real estate agents were employed by several of the largest brokerage franchises in the greater Toronto area, such as iPro Realty Corp., Save Max, Century 21 VIP Realty, RE / MAX Millennium, eXp Realty and Keller Williams .

Some students have said they paid for a for-profit tutoring service to help them study for exams, and now fear their association with these companies has dragged them into a cheating scheme. There are several such programs in the Toronto area. Many are owned and operated by a registered real estate agent.

But RECO says it has no evidence that any of the tutoring services were connected to the “organized” program that Humber said he discovered. “If there is evidence that RECO registrants were involved in these activities, RECO will investigate. We are also aware that Humber College and the police are conducting their own misconduct investigations, ”RECO said in an email response to questions.

For those who have committed educational misconduct, there is still a way back to real estate. Humber’s academic misconduct policies allow a student to complete incomplete courses after a period of suspension. A number of these former Globe realtors have said they will do just that.

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