Should Agents be Stripped of Their License for Not Disclosing Info?

A recent case in Toronto has brought up the debate of what should happen to a real estate agent if they knowingly withhold information about a home they’re trying to sell. The question is now, is the “slap on the wrist” she received enough? or should the real estate agent lose her license?

Anita Foss was a homeowner looking for a place to buy in Toronto. She, like most homebuyers, went from home to home until she found one she liked. She was given disclosure documents, looked them over carefully, and provided all of her other due diligence as a homebuyer. The sale of the home went through, and Foss moved in. She was happy in her new home. Until she found out that she hadn’t known all of its history beforehand. It turns out that there was a “stigmatizing event” that happened on the property and sadly, a few years ago a baby had drowned in the hot tub on the back deck.

Stigmatizing events are called as such because, even though there may be nothing wrong with a certain property, they still have a stigma attached to them. Buyers may be put off of the home after they find out that such a tragic event happens, and they may not want to buy the property. Real estate agents know this. And while they’re supposed to disclose that information, and most do, some are tempted to keep it to themselves just to make the sale. And the rare few, unfortunately do.

Anita Foss sold her home, after she had gone to the trouble and expense of removing the tub. She disclosed the information upon the sale and when she did, her selling price dropped from $364,000 to $355,000. Foss had originally purchased the property for $330,000, so she wasn’t out any money. But the hardship, heaviness of heart that comes with that knowledge, and the time and trouble to find a new home have created havoc in her life.

The real estate agent (that was with one of the Big Names) was taken to court and found guilty of non-disclosure. The court found the Realtor guilty, but only charged them with a warning and a court order to take an educational course on the subject.

Foss feels that simply isn’t enough.

“It amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist with complete disregard to the emotional and financial cost to me,” said Foss after the hearing. “I take this as a personal affront and consider it disrespectful not only to me but to the public as a whole, allowing this person to continue the business of selling property.”

It’s a hard call for sure. After all, the agent should be punished for knowing that information and not disclosing it. However, there may be cases like this that go on all the time, and the Realtor legitimately doesn’t know about the information before selling the home. And should they really get their career stripped away because they themselves didn’t know something about it?

What do you think? Should Realtors be stripped of their license for non-disclosure? Or is better training and better information the right way to go for everyone that may be involved?