Not long ago, Information Technology Systems Ontario (ITSO) marked the one-year anniversary of its move to oversee the professional standards complaints and arbitration of some of its member boards and associations, rather than simply functioning as an MLS provider.

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“While much ink has been committed to the security and standards of the (MLS) data, and rightly so, co-operation and professionalism have not received as much attention. This is particularly the case in this over-heated market where properties are selling in record time,” says ITSO 2021 president Michelle Wobst.

Michelle Wobst
Michelle Wobst

She continues: “While ITSO is primarily a technology company that operates an MLS system, we also maintain the MLS rules, and consistent enforcement of those rules is essential… ITSO’s member associations asked ITSO to create a regional professional standards and arbitration regime to increase the consistency of enforcement across member associations. The Professional Standards Complaints (PSC) policy was consulted on with all member associations before it was approved.”

ITSO is a not-for-profit consortium of regional real estate associations that facilitates co-operative use of a shared MLS system. Membership in the Guelph-headquartered corporation has been seriously ramping up.

The company is now providing MLS to much of the province, says Wobst. She has been quoted as saying that most Realtors in Ontario would prefer to have “just one MLS system with all the data,” and one fee, without having to worry about paying to subscribe to another board.

Originally started up years ago (under a different name) to break down digital barriers, desegregate data and address inefficiencies in the existing regional MLS system, ITSO’s membership is now comprised of 20 of Ontario’s 36 real estate boards, along with five others that aren’t full members but have some form of data-sharing agreement. The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, the largest in the country, is not an ITSO member or affiliate.

ITSO is controlled by its members, and those on its committees and board of directors are practicing Realtors, Wobst says. “Decisions are 100 per cent driven by Realtors for Realtors.”

All ITSO member boards are required to follow and enforce the new professional standards policy, “but they can choose whether they elect to enforce it themselves or delegate enforcement to ITSO,” says Wobst.

She views the decision as generally coming down to whether professional standards complaints are among the services a board wants to handle itself, or instead prefers to hand off to ITSO so as to focus on other things.

To date, a dozen of ITSO’s member associations have gone the latter route, taking ITSO on in its new capacity as a hired gun handling Realtor wrongdoing, including transgressions such as misleading advertising and accepting pre-emptive offers without notifying interested parties.

ITSO’s new PSC committee meets monthly, Wobst says, adding that charges were laid in 35 per cent of incidents reviewed over the past year, with penalties ranging from reprimands and fines to orders to complete targeted educational courses. (Only a small percentage of incidents went to the provincial regulator.)

Wobst says she wouldn’t be surprised if complaints against Realtors have risen with ITSO now in the mix, because complainants may feel more comfortable filing incident reports that will be reviewed by strangers rather than by people they might know, and also maybe because of greater complaint handling speed and efficiency. The influx of inexperienced new agents into the industry and the hot market have also likely had an impact, she says.

The expansion of ITSO’s role has raised a few questioning eyebrows among Ontario’s real estate professionals. It’s been suggested by some that ITSO may be taking over organized real estate in Ontario, and that the local boards have all but handed it to the operation on a platter.

Despite assurances by ITSO about its intentions (the organization has “no desire” to eventually merge its member associations to become one large board, Wobst says), some Ontario Realtors aren’t sure what to make of the company’s advancing industry presence or the new roles it has now taken on. Recent sweeping amendments to ITSO’s MLS rules (which will soon result in a course launch on the changes) have some Realtors wondering if it’s a sign of things to come (although ITSO says the changes are less substantial than they appear, and mainly just entail “a lot of cleanup”).

Bob Van de Vrande
Bob Van de Vrande

Bob Van de Vrande, a former president of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (RAHB), has some thoughts on this but wants to make it clear that these are entirely his own and in no way reflect the position of RAHB or its directors. (RAHB isn’t a full member of ITSO but has a data-sharing agreement.)

“I can’t speak to what ITSO wants to do,” says Van de Vrande. “But professional standards and arbitration are in the purview of boards. Why is a tech service organization doing that? What members most assuredly do not need is another level of organized real estate.”

Stressing that ITSO is to be applauded “loudly and enthusiastically” for consolidating the MLS data of its members, it’s his opinion that diving into professional standards as well is a distraction.

“Why not just focus on what you already do?” he asks.

Wobst scoffs when asked if – with ITSO taking on not just MLS but also professional standards and discipline services – real estate boards could wind up as little more than social clubs.

“The technology behind MLS is only one part of what MLS is. There’s nothing ‘social club’ about running an association,” she says, listing a long tally of everyday board tasks, among them government relations, community outreach, enforcing basic MLS rules and accuracy and processing of new members.

14 COMMENTS

  1. :) Pleased to see the “inevitable” coming along nicely, in my esteemed colleague’s opinions and ITSO MLS and Board action.

    • Proud DUAL Member of TRREB® and OMDREB® (one of 22 ITSO® MLS Boards) not-for-profit corporations that strive to be the preferred MLS® System and Technology provider for its Partner and Member Associations. With Dual Memberships we enjoy ALL MLS DATA in our Regional marketplaces across most Ontario.
      Who believes that it would be great solution towards “REALTOR professionalism” and brokerage efficiency if these two MLS entities (#TRREB and #ITSO) were to collaborate/Partnership to provide their Board Membership access to all the MLS data by either data sharing (Ontario-wide) or swapping (Regional Markets with “gap listings). Data Swap or Data Share works! Secure technology exists. (TRREB and OMDREB or RAHB and ITSO). It will take real /great Board Leadership to have all the MLS data in our regional marketplace or across Ontario accessible for REALTORS representing Ontario consumers and end users. #itsorealestate #orea #trreb #OntarioWideMLS #modestproposal #NoDualMembership #NoSubscription #NoInterBoard required #FutureMLStoday
      ITSO | Information Technology Systems Ontario (itsosystems.ca)
      TRREB | The TORONTO REGIONAL REAL ESTATE BOARD (trreb.ca)

  2. Regarding ITSO Rules , Regulations ,Violations, Penalties . PKAR , ( PETERBOROUGH AND THE KAWARTHA’S ) adopted and entered into AGREEMENT with ITSO in the 2020 Board of Directors Year . NOT FOR PROFIT CORPORATION ACT (2010 ) ONTARIO requires ALL RULE CHANGES AND OR AMENDMENTS IN ASSOCIATION BY-LAWS be brought before THE MEMBERSHIP for a vote of approval ( at the next General Meeting of the Membership ) . It further states if this is not done THE RULE IS NULL AND VOID ) . ITSO was accepted by the PKAR Board in 2020 but WAS NEVER BROUGHT FOR A MEMBERSHIP VOTE OF APPROVAL . This fact was brought before the 2021 Board of Directors , was denied , covered up , members were chastised for doing so . PKAR therefore is in Denial and acting Unlawfully as per Provincial Legislation and their own BY-LAWS . ITSO IS IN FACT THE NEW RULE , members are being fined and prosecuted as a result .

    • It appears Big Brotherism (aka we know what’s best for you; don’t argue with us because we know best; we’re not at all interested in what you think via your vote; you don’t get a vote) has percolated right down to the local bureaucracy level.

      Hey Peterborough…they’re undermining your democratic rights with your own money! You’re paying bureaucrats to break “their”—read “your”—own rules! They’re supposed to represent your democratic wishes, not ignore and/or defy them!

      Put this issue to a membership vote, PKAR! What are you afraid of? Do you represent your constituents, or do you just dictate to the little people? What will you do if they withhold their dues en masse…run them out of the business? Then who would pay y’all? C.R.E.A.? O.R.E.A.? Not bloody likely.

      Good on you Keith for publicly exposing this travesty. Apparently being politically correct and good natured doesn’t cut it with your superiors…I mean, representatives. Do you think they will sick the Ethics folks on you for disagreeing with and outing them?

      Keith says the Board of Directors chastised members who brought this issue to the table within its own walls. Now ‘the Board’ stands to be chastised publicly.

      Put it to a vote P.K.A.R. Do your best to sell it and then let the chips fall where they may. That would be democracy in action. Do you believe in democracy, or is democracy too slow and messy for your taste?

      I trust Keith knows of what he says, otherwise he wouldn’t have publicly put this out there.

      • Thank you Brian for your comments , I know what I said . This all began for me beginning April 8/21 . How dare a 35 plus year member and an Honorary Member since 2011 ever question PKAR Powers to be . The Board is hiding behind Covid 19 and doing what ever they wish . It got so bad , it was effecting my health and I resigned the Board as of Oct 31/21 . In the wisdom of the staff , I was cut off on Oct. 26/21 and they reported publicly I had retired . That was also untrue , I had resigned and clearly stated why . I did get a retraction after I complained . I am still a licensed Real Estate Broker , but not a PKAR Member . The old saying , ” do not fight City Hall ” .

        • Hi Keith:

          That old saying, “You can’t fight City Hall”, actually doesn’t hold any water. You are just expected to believe it…by the City Hall types. I fought Oshawa City Hall, literally, back in the mid nineties, and won, forcing them to rescind an eleven-year-old law that I challenged them on as being unconstitutional at the time. They were using it to extort monies out of homeowners wanting to legalize basement apartments, and I wouldn’t go for it as had many before me. They grumbled and paid up. I refused and threatened exposure of their tactics on national TV. The City lawyer was really pissed at my attitude and behaviour. Tough nuggies. The then mayor, Nancy Diamond, overrode him, and with council’s assent, rescinded the law. I didn’t have tp pay their ransom, nor did anyone else going forward. Game over.

          Talk to Teresa Kazuba at Global Peterborough. She might be interested in this issue. Tell her I recommended you speak to her. One never knows where these stories might go.

          • BRIAN MARTINDALE , could you contact me at [email protected] or 705-741-8565 . I would like to inform you of a struggle we are currently involved in at PKAR . I STRONGLY SUGGEST IT IS INJUSTICE WE ARE INVOLVED IN AND A MAJOR COVER UP .

          • Hi Keith:

            Re your Jan. 1, 2022 12:50 p.m. reply to mine to yours of Dec. 21, 2021, at 4:35 p.m.

            I received and read your private email to me dated today, Jan. 2, 2022 at 12:15 p.m. with great interest.

            It appears to me from your words that PKAR used the cover of Covid-19 to ram through the ITSO agreement sans membership vote, as required by PKAR’s own rules. PKAR obviously wants all to believes it did the right thing for the membership. But could there have been some kind of a payoff? It’s possible. Anything’s possible when backroom politics are in play. One only need look at Cuomo fiasco in New York. Who would have thunk it?Hopefully that is not the case here.

            It appears the agreement per se is not the issue here, but how it was implemented is. We must always be aware of an old saying: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. It appears PKAR believes it has absolute power over you and any other reasonable objector to this particular tactic. PKAR will continue to believe that if allowed to. They are the local Gioliath; you are David. Keep that in mind. Be creative. You can win yet.

  3. Mandate creep, Mission creep, anything THEY can do … we can do better.
    Heck — JOIN FORCES and create ONE MLS FOR ALL ONTARIO Brokerages

    Everyone to “the same things” in their local jurisdictions and stop fighting w Toronto (AND VICE VERSA)

    Let’s sell the building on Duncan Mills, distribute the proceeds and windup the floundering to find a purpose (so we can all keep our public-sector-pensioned-jobs, sheesh) OREA sans Pre-Registration and Ongoing Education start BEING Organized Realtors!

    • “Let’s sell the building on Duncan Mills,…” says Robert. Agreed. Sell it to Dunkin Donuts so at least what they produce with holes in them will be designed so on purpose.

  4. I agree with Mr. Van de Vrande. It’m time that we get all the data. It’s embarrassing not knowing what is happening ion our own markets. Why is RAHB letting g ITSO lead? RAHB should have done this for us years ago.

    • Thanks for your comment. RAHB has been a leader in data share for decades starting with our “STARS” group run by RAHB consisting of RAHB, Niagara, Brantford and Simcoe long before other associations were sharing. Our policy has been we will share listing data on a reciprocal basis with any association which is why you have access to most of Ontario through the ITSO group and and other cooperating associations. TRREB has not wanted to share data on the same basis as we do with the other associations. Their reasons (as I have understood them) range from data security to technical issues. RAHB’s data share associations has never had a security issue so I’m sure the largest real estate board on the planet could deal with that as a non issue. Additionally TRREB did share data with Oakville Milton for a year and a half until recently when TRREB terminated the arrangement. So that takes away both objections, it can be done successfully if the will is there.

  5. There is no need for ITSO to become another level of bureaucracy within Organized Real Estate (sometimes lovingly referred to as Disorganized Real Estate). ITSO already charges a per member fee for boards having full membership in the organization that is not borne by members of boards simply sharing data. The key question is “Why is another corporate structure, staffed bureaucracy and more overhead” required beyond the minimal necessary to integrate the data, most of which admittedly is done by Matrix anyhow”.

    What would be really beneficial would be for ITSO (and individual boards/associations) to find a way to integrate their data with TTREB and its partners so that members, particularly throughout the GTA, but also beyond, will have truly comprehensive data as this is necessary for members to effectively conduct business without having to join multiple boards. ITSO has on its website the ITSO statement on Information Solidarity,

    “ITSO firmly believes that Ontarians should have access to all the MLS® listing content in the province. It isn’t a matter of “who has the most” since most of the data is not good enough, – even 99% of the data does not help the consumer if the home they wanted is within that missing 1%. ITSO believes that anything less than 100% is a failure to all stakeholders.

    Consumers need this information to make an informed decision. REALTORS® need this information to fulfill their fiduciary duties to their clients and serve them to the standard they require.

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