A real estate management services company operating in B.C. has been ordered to cease operations and has had bank accounts frozen by the provincial Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate Services.
The regulatory body issued the emergency orders against Cricket Property Management Inc. on May 6 following an investigation and “numerous” complaints from industry members, tenants, owners, members of the public and the Burnaby RCMP.
“As a result of an ongoing investigation into these complaints, the superintendent has determined that it is in the public interest to make the order urgently without a hearing,” says a written statement from the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate Services.
The regulatory agency is meant to protect consumers who are buying, selling or renting a home.
The orders also apply to the owners and directors of the company, Kapene Tio Mohiruatea Hiroti and Thomas Hongyang Zhang.
Hiroti told Postmedia News that the company felt blindsided by the orders as they believed they were complying with direction from the regulatory body and had been supplying information requested.
He said they respect and have complied with the orders — including returning money to clients — but don’t agree with the regulatory agency’s view of their business.
Hiroti maintained the company does not carry out property management services in B.C., but instead provides matchmaking services that connect prospective property owners and tenants, which would not require licensing.
The freeze on their bank accounts means they cannot continue to return funds to clients and is also causing larger business problems, including for their operations in other provinces, said Hiroti.
They are now waiting for a response to their actions following the orders and questions put to the superintendent’s office.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” Hiroti said. “We’re not cowboys. We are not fly-by-night. We are here to work towards a solution.”
In the written reasons for the emergency decision, superintendent of real estate Michael Noseworthy said that as of April 27, 2021 neither Cricket Property Management, Hiroti or Zhang have been licensed to provide real estate services in B.C. that cover providing property management services.
Cricket Property Management advertises on various social media platforms, and on its website, as a property management franchisor specializing in rental property management services to rental property owners and investors, according to the regulator.
The regulator noted the company states that it is Canada’s leading property management company with more than 20 years of experience.
The company has a number of employees and an office in Ontario, according to the regulator.
The written reasons for the emergency orders say the investigation found allegations by owners about unreturned rental income and deposits, and concerns about the inability to connect with Cricket Property Management employees.
Hiroti disputed that claim, saying he did not believe there were many complaints, any of which they would be happy to resolve, and also alleged that competitors were behind some of the complaints.
According to the regulator, the company said it could not provide a client list and to provide one would create an “exceptional hardship.”
However, the regulator said its investigation showed Cricket Property Management may be providing rental property management services to hundreds of properties, and that it may have interacted with over 3,000 property owners.
Cricket Property Management’s website is down, with a message saying it’s “under maintenance.”
An archived file from the company’s website from January 2021 viewed by Postmedia showed the company stated that as a property owner you can “rest assured your rental property will be managed from start to finish.”
The archived web page said that included screening tenants, placement, collection of rents, rigorous inspections, co-ordination of maintenance, monthly financial accounting and statements.