Advanced Education for Real Estate Industry

An Easy Hack to Avoid a Lawsuit

As a lawyer, manager of a brokerage and a member of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) I’m surrounded by rules of professional conduct and codes of ethics. All of my actions – whether they’re related to my work or not – are filtered through not only the Law Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct, but also the Real Estate and Business Broker’s Act and REIC’s Code of Professional Standards. While this seems like quite the process, I discovered that being ethical is just as good as having a lawyer on demand.

Develop Your Own Legal Intuition

If you practice ethical behavior consistently – from how you act with your family members to how you treat your clients and other real estate professionals – you’ll become “lawsuit-proof”. This is because you willl develop a very strong intuition around what is ethical and, defacto, what is legal.

How Intuition Works

Intuition isn’t magic! Rather, it’s our brain quickly processing the mass amount of information we’ve gathered and analyzed through years of repeated actions. An example of this is when you “just knew” that the deal was going to fall apart or that the buyer wasn’t serious. Your instinct is your unconscious brain picking up on numerous cues, and these cues trigger a “gut reaction” you’ve had in the past to those very same cues.

Given how intuition works, it follows that developing a “legal mind” and lawsuit radar can be done through memorizing the Code and practicing ethical behavior. The problem in doing this, however, is that ethical behavior isn’t clear cut and memorizing the Code is not an easy or immediate solution.

With these obstacles in mind, I use the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM)’s “Five Question Method”. By consistent application of these 5 questions, I am not only able to clarify and examine ethical issues, but I’m also able to access a “built in mini-lawyer”.  

The Five Question Method

  1. Is it illegal?
  2. Who is affected by your decision? And how?
  3. What are the consequences of the decision?
  4. How do you feel about the situation?
  5. Have you examined all the alternatives?

If this method is too difficult, then an even simpler question to guide you is: “Would you like to see your action talked about on the first page of your local newspaper?” If the answer is “no”, it is likely unethical and possibly a breach of the law.

Learn About Business Ethics

REIC’s senior level ethics program deals extensively with ethical codes and management issues. Using case studies, group discussions, workshops, and videos, participants will study various real estate ethical codes and will acquire the tools and strategies to maintain strict ethical standards in a business setting. Available in classroom and online formats. 

Written by Natalka Falcomer, CLO

Natalka Falcomer is a lawyer and Certified Leasing Officer (CLO) who has a passion to make the law accessible and affordable. She founded, hosts and coproduced a popular legal call-in show on Rogers TV, Toronto Speaks Legal Advice. She founded Groundworks, a firm specializing in commercial real estate law, and is the EVP of corporate development at Chestnut Park.

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