Real Estate

More than 300 students cheated on their Ontario real estate license exam, says Auditor General

E-learning education, internet lessons and online webinar. Person who attends online lessons on a digital screen, real estate licenses Miha Creative/Shutterstock

A new report found that more than 300 students in Humber College’s Real Estate Education program cheated on their licensing exams, much higher than the 34 initially discovered when the story broke last fall.

The report was conducted by Ontario’s Auditor General as a price performance review of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), the province’s regulatory body for the profession. When the cheating was first unveiled, both RECO and Humber didn’t specifically indicate how it happened, but the report found that the exam proctoring software was a key culprit. Most exams were done online and remotely, and the software couldn’t prevent screen-sharing or maintain supervision if there were technical issues, the report stated.

At the time the report was released, some of the students had already been working as real estate agents, mostly in the Toronto area. Ultimately, more than 50 were stripped of their licenses. With the revelation that there were hundreds more students who also cheated, a representative from RECO said they are working with Humber College to hold each one accountable. 

Anyone can check the status of a brokerage or salesperson through RECO’s online search tool, said Joseph Richer, RECO’s registrar. If someone does not come up, that means they are not registered to work in Ontario—the names of individuals who had their registration voided are also available on the site.

Richer stated that employers were also notified and are expected to take disciplinary steps in addition to reviewing deals that the individuals were involved in. He also recommended that buyers and sellers ask their respective lawyers to review transactions for errors. “If any transactions occurred after RECO registration was voided, this could be subject to prosecution,” he said. He reiterated that most of the Humber students were caught before they were able to register with RECO and start working.

In a statement, a media representative from Humber College said that the Auditor General “is reporting on a specific point in time and did not directly contact Humber for information.” They added that when the issue first arose, the college investigated students, worked with RECO, and “continues to ensure high standards around exam security and integrity.”

Upon the report’s release, a representative from Humber told The Globe and Mail that the school has added stricter measures for online exams, such as requiring students to have a second camera, and more rigorous security checks before the exam starts. However, the report alleged that RECO “has taken no steps to independently verify that the issues that led to the breaches have been satisfactorily addressed.”

With the reporting being an overall audit of the organization, several concerns were raised about its processes, such as the rigorousness of criminal background checks on realtors, the reporting system for ethics violations, or the ability to flag suspicious transactions.

Richer said the organization is committed “to increasing consumer confidence in the real estate industry,” and that the individuals who cheated “should not be allowed to compromise the integrity of the real estate profession as a whole.”

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