For starters, due to anticipated operational challenges, in order to have time to comply, the boards would like to see the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) delay implementation of the Ontario Realtor Wellness Program (ORWP) beyond the slated Jan. 1 launch date. OREA had previously declined this request; however, the organization recently noted that for some boards, it has extended the deadline for the provision of the collection of certain required personal information around members to Jun. 30, 2024, with access to ORWP being provided in the interim.
Debate over mandatory nature of ORWP
But, the issues go far beyond timing and data collection concerns. Many boards — reportedly significantly more than are in on this particular action — are alarmed that the insurance and benefits package will be mandatory and a condition of OREA membership. They want further discussion. OREA insists that the plan needs to be mandatory, as larger numbers ensure lower premiums. Many realtors — particularly those who already have existing benefit plans and no interest in adding to them — dispute the need to have all 96,000 association members involved.
Voting on such issues is managed by the assembly, comprised of all Ontario boards, with each receiving a fixed number of votes based on size. It’s a bylaw requirement that a special general meeting can’t be called without a high enough (10 per cent) representation of assembly votes. The 10 boards that committed to calling this special meeting will more than do the trick.
According to the boards, OREA asked for a pause in submitting the special meeting request to allow its board of directors to discuss this particular agenda item at the regularly scheduled meeting in mid-September.
OREA yet to respond formally to the boards’ request
At the time of this writing, the boards had not received a formal response from OREA regarding a date for the special general meeting. In a recent statement to Real Estate Magazine, Stacey Evoy, OREA past president and ORWP co-chair, notes, “We have received the requisition, and we’re working on setting up the date and venue for this.”
The ORWP is a “transformative program” that will “have a historic impact on the future of the real estate profession,” Evoy states.
“Any big industry change like this will come with questions,” she adds. “We have held numerous webinars and training sessions to assist member boards with the operational and technical framework of the program, and will continue to keep an open door to answer any questions…This includes our in-person town hall for members to ask any ORWP-related questions on Oct. 11.” (This will be held at the Toronto Congress Centre, reportedly around 1:30 p.m.)
Says David Puddy, president of the Simcoe & District Real Estate Board: “I believe OREA is working hard to remedy operational issues.” He adds that this includes financial support to help boards who need it with the added workload, data collection, etc..
“OREA has worked their butts off to put this thing together. But the general feeling is that they’ve misread the temperature in the room around the mandatory piece. Take that out, and it would be a whole different discussion…We need people working it out together. We don’t want this to be a confrontational thing.”
It appears that much of the logistics of putting the ORWP in place and managing it may fall on the various boards, including obtaining member consent and personal information; amending invoicing to include the new fees and collection; managing late and non-payments; terminating members who don’t pay the ORWP fees; reviewing/signing contracts; executing database system changes; and more.
Puddy is among those who think that this will be a challenge, creating additional pressure “on people already close to being overworked.”
The 10 boards and associations requisitioning the special general meeting are:
- Brantford Regional Real Estate Association
- Guelph and District Association of Realtors
- Kingston and Area Real Estate Association
- Mississauga Real Estate Board
- Niagara Association of Realtors
- Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington
- Simcoe & District Real Estate Board
- The Lakelands Association of Realtors
- The Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board
- Waterloo Region Association of Realtors
The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), by far the largest in the province, is notably absent from this list. With the lion’s share of votes (49 per cent) in the assembly, TRREB is virtually unbeatable — a system many consider unfair. It seems clear that TRREB voted yes to the ORWP (although that doesn’t mean that all of the board’s individual members would agree with that decision).
TRREB President Paul Baron tells REM: “For many years, TRREB members have called for valuable health and wellness coverage, making OREA’s new Realtor Wellness Program an important step forward…The program was approved in June by an overwhelming majority at an OREA special meeting. The program is a safety net for all realtors. TRREB will participate in any special meeting organized by OREA to discuss the ORWP.”
Dissenting boards aim to separate ORWP from OREA membership
The dissenting boards, on the other hand, would like to see the assembly approve a motion to decouple the requirement of the ORWP being mandatory as a condition of OREA membership.
Bill Duce, CEO of the Waterloo Region Association of Realtors (WRAR), notes that while making the insurance optional rather than mandatory would resolve many members’ concerns (“One size never fits all,” he says), it still “does not resolve the issues around directors signing contracts with third-party vendors that they have no oversight on.”
Many people in the industry are rising to be heard in the “fallout of the ORWP decision,” Duce observes. “Many do not believe they are being represented or listened to.”
If, after all is said and done, any board refuses to accept OREA’s terms regarding the ORWP, the options are twofold, Duce explains. “Either comply with the program or be prepared for OREA to terminate the board, along with those realtors who belong to it from OREA.”
Everyone wants to avoid that if possible. “We have nothing but the utmost respect for OREA staff…We remain committed to working with OREA to resolve any differences,” insists Duce. “I expect we will all be able to find a mutually agreeable path forward.”