Anti-money-laundering course mandatory for B.C. real estate agents, property managers

The regulatory agency for B.C.’s real estate professionals is launching a mandatory anti-money-laundering course to show real estate agents and strata and property managers how to recognize red flags and what steps they are obligated to take to report suspected cases.

The course will provide “the information you need to understand why real estate is attractive to money launderers,” said the course outline on the website of the Real Estate Council of B.C., the regulatory body of the province’s 26,000 licensed real estate professionals.

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Licensees will learn “how to recognize the risk signs and red flags associated with money laundering [and] review your obligations and the steps to take to report suspicious transactions,” the outline said.

The self-paced online course will “empower [real estate professionals] to actively contribute to preventing criminal activity in B.C. real estate markets” and support them to “comply with their federal reporting obligations,” spokesman Warren Mirko said in an emailed statement.

“Real estate professionals work closely with their clients, so they are well positioned to identify suspicious transactions,” he said.

The announcement of the course requirement comes two months after the provincial government unveiled plans to create a new regulator for British Columbia’s real estate sector by spring 2021.

A single regulator for the sector was a key recommendation of recent reports aimed at cracking down on money laundering.

The three reports into money laundering since 2018 have revealed billions in proceeds-of-crime, and other questionable sources of income have been laundered for years through the real estate industry, as well as through other luxury purchases and through casinos.

The latest report, by Maureen Maloney in May, estimated up to $5 billion was funnelled through the B.C. property market in 2018 alone, likely increasing housing prices that year by five per cent.

Retired B.C. Supreme Court associate chief Justice Austin Cullen is in the middle of a year-long public inquiry to investigate the causes, scope and impact of money laundering in the province.

Registration will open when the course is launched next week and it will be required for licence renewal beginning April 1.

“It will become part of the mandatory education that real estate professionals must take in order to maintain their licence to practise in B.C.,” said Mirko.

The B.C. Real Estate Association announced this week a new requirement of 18 hours of professional training every two years for its realtors (who make up 90 per cent of all real estate agents), but there was no reference to money laundering.

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