“Is this an intruder or is it a real estate agent? We have no other information.”
Martin Sheikhan was alarmed to see two unknown people captured on video entering an Oakville home that his real estate brokerage is selling.
The couple is seen walking up to the door and ringing the doorbell which activates the hidden camera. They then punch in what is supposed to be a secret numeric code into a lock box, grab the key and proceed to let themselves into the home.
Sheikhan says neither person was a real estate agent. They were potential buyers entering the home without an agent — a serious no-no in the real estate business.
The access code to lock boxes are closely guarded and are never supposed to be shared with the public. Further, if it’s a private viewing, buyers must always be accompanied by their agent.
“(Lock box codes) are fundamental to the trust relationship that the seller has with their agent, so we hold registrants who work in the real estate industry to a very high standard of privacy,” says Kelvin Kucey, deputy registrar of regulatory compliance at the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). “The expectation is that they keep those lock box codes zealously protected.”
CityNews has found that expectation is being undermined alarmingly often.
Dozens of real estate agents have been slapped with fines by RECO over the last few years alone. The fines averaged $3,000, though RECO says agents can be fined up to $9,000.
While Kucey doesn’t believe the incidents represent a trend, he admits it is a consistent problem.
“It’s something that we are consistently enforcing,” he says, adding if anyone files a complaint, it will be investigated.
In Sheikhan’s case — he believes an agent from another brokerage gave clients the code to the lock box and then tried to cover his tracks. When he spoke to that particular agent, his account of the events appeared inconsistent.
“He said … she is my partner and then I look at the video again and it’s a guy opening the lock,” he says. “He started to cover up and say lets go for a coffee. I’ll explain it to you.”
Sheikhan says the agent did visit the house 15 minutes after the couple left, saying he went back to turn off the lights and leave his card, but he did not accompany the couple.
Kucey reiterates that according to RECO, giving buyers direct access to homes is never appropriate.
“Not without a registered real estate professional along beside them,” says Kucey. “And the buyer should never be given that information to allow them to open the door.”
“I certainly don’t want someone walking into my house and say ‘oh I’m here — or who are you?'” said Sheikhan, adding he wanted to make home buyers aware of this troubling practice and warn other agents to refrain from it.