Suspended B.C. realtor fined $95,000 for targetting “financially distressed and vulnerable” homeowners

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      On November 14, 2017, the Real Estate Council of British Columbia announced that it suspended the real estate licences of Kevindeep (Kevin) Singh Bratch and Bratch Realty Ltd.

      The move was made pending completion of investigation into Bratch’s conduct.

      At the time, the RECBC revealed that it wanted to know if Bratch was “engaged in aggressive marketing and sales practices targeting vulnerable persons who were financially distressed as a result of their homes being in foreclosure proceedings”.

      “The Council is also investigating whether these were ‘predatory’ schemes for personal gain and profit at the expense of those who were in distress,” the council stated in 2017.

      The investigation has been completed, and after hearing, a discipline committee has determined that Bratch committed professional misconduct.

      A summary of the findings was published on September 13, 2021 on the website of the B.C. Financial Services Authority.

      The investigation focused on three properties.

      In one of these, the summary stated that Bratch “targeted the owner with a ‘rent-to-own’ program which included disadvantageous terms for the owner”.

      Bratch knew that the owner was in foreclosure proceedings and was “financially distressed and vulnerable”.

      In reasons for decision regarding liability, the discipline committee related how Bratch “approached allegedly financially vulnerable individuals”.

      These individuals were “all facing foreclosure on their homes”.

      They were presented with a “rent-to-own scheme (the ‘RTO Scheme’)”, which Bratch completed through his brokerage.

      “Under the RTO Scheme,” the committee recalled, “Mr. Bratch and his wife, or a company controlled by his wife (the ‘Buyers’), would buy homes from individuals … at prices substantially below the homes’ assessed values”.

      The buyers would then “rent the homes back to the Owners at higher-than-market rental rates pursuant to tenancy agreements”.

      Moreover, they would “provide the Owners with an option to buy their homes back within a set time and at a set price, pursuant to option agreements”.

      “If the Owners failed to buy back their homes, or if they defaulted in any way under their tenancy agreements, the options would end, all monies paid by the Owners would remain with the Buyers, and the Buyers would keep the homes,” the discipline committee related.

      The committee also noted that while the RTO scheme is “not illegal”, the council alleged that it was “disadvantageous to the Owners, and in some cases, the Owners did not receive independent legal advice or separate agency representation”.

      The owners also “either believed that Mr. Bratch was acting on their behalf, or were at least confused as to his role in the transaction”.

      The committee concluded that Bratch committed “professional misconduct” and “conduct unbecoming” of a realtor.

      It ordered Bratch to pay a discipline penalty of $45,000, and enforcement expenses of $50,000.

      Bratch is also to complete an ethics course.

      He will not be allowed to apply for a new licence until after one year of the discipline order.

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