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Ontario Real Estate Association wants province to intervene in registration spat with travel council

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader and current OREA chief executive Tim Hudak on Thursday, June 12, 2014. .
Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader and current OREA chief executive Tim Hudak on Thursday, June 12, 2014. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – The Travel Industry Council of Ontario is putting plans to force realtors to register as travel agents if they want to arrange short-term rentals for Ontario clients on hold after the Ontario Real Estate Association called on the province to intervene.

The industry groups said they have agreed to sit down with the Real Estate Council of Ontario, the real estate industry’s regulator, and discuss the policy that TICO president Richard Smart said is aimed at protecting consumers.

“We are not going to go out and take any active action against any business that we had approached on short-term rentals,” he said.

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The decision to pause the registration push came after OREA chief executive Tim Hudak wrote to Minister of Government and Consumer Services Todd Smith recently asking Smith to have his staff sit down with all of the sides.

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Smith’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hudak’s letter said OREA had heard TICO was threatening legal action – a move Smart denied – against brokerages that work with Ontario clients arranging short-term accommodations and don’t register as travel agents.

“This double registration requirement is a needless piece of red tape that costs real estate small businesses thousands of dollars, considerable time and much aggravation with no discernable benefit to consumers,” he said in his letter.

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He noted brokerages must pay a $3,000 registration fee, a $10,000 security deposit and maintain at least $5,000 of working capital to register as a travel agent.

The push to force realtors to register was occurring because TICO and the Travel Industry Act define short-term rental properties as accommodations offered to travellers for 30 days or less, Hudak’s letter said. The missive added that TICO believes realtors can only handle leases that fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, thus requiring them to also register with the travel industry regulator.

“It undermines confidence in our system when you have this type of overlap,” Hudak said in an interview.

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“(TICO and RECO) are both important regulators to ensure that if you are making a real estate purchase or booking a vacation that there are high standards for consumer protection or disciplinary procedures if somebody gets ripped off. We just have to make sure we are not stepping on each other’s toes.”

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Smart said the agency wasn’t targeting realtors in a campaign, but was trying to ensure consumers are protected by applying the same regulations TICO has had for years.

Most of the businesses TICO has targeted are neither registered with TICO or RECO, he said.

Smart and Hudak both said they didn’t have a timeline set up for a meeting, but were glad they had agreed to talk.