A Lower Mainland real estate agent was fined nearly $ 100,000 after being found guilty of professional misconduct in a rental with purchase option allegedly targeting financially vulnerable landlords.
More than three years after the BC Real Estate Board first suspended Kevindeep Singh Bratch’s license under “urgent circumstances”, Bratch has also been told he will have to wait another year before he can apply. to get his license back.
Discipline committee found Bratch had committed conduct unbecoming a real estate agent after a hearing that saw testimony from a man who claimed Bratch acted as a “savior” while negotiating a deal to buy a $ 2.1 million home for less than a quarter of its value.
“Bratch’s conduct … constitutes unbecoming conduct because it targets members of the public who find themselves in stressful positions, who have limited options and who feel compelled to accept all conditions to keep their family home. “the council said in submissions that resulted in the sanctions. .
“Under these circumstances, Mr. Bratch was looking to make an investment and was motivated by profit. Homeowners were motivated by a desire to keep their home.”
“Disadvantageous” offers for owners
The case was one of the last handled by the real estate board before the introduction of a new regulator in British Columbia. .
The penalties – which include a fine of $ 45,000 and $ 50,000 to pay the cost of the investigation – were announced this week on the new regulator’s website.
The BCFSA will deal with the matter in the future.
Bratch could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the regulator said he had appealed the decision to the Financial Services Tribunal.
The rulings make it clear that Bratch’s activities were not illegal.
The real estate board said they were “at a disadvantage” to owners who “had not received independent legal advice or separate agency representation, and believed Mr. Bratch was acting on their behalf, or were at least confused. as to his role in the transaction. “
“This is the best scenario”
The witness who claimed Bratch appeared to be a “savior” told council he approached Bratch after receiving an unsolicited mail claiming the real estate agent was a foreclosure specialist.
At the time, the witness – whose name is redacted in the decision – was in financial difficulty; her mother had died two years earlier and her bank had started foreclosure proceedings on her childhood home for $ 2.1 million.
According to the ruling, the two men reached a deal whereby Bratch and his wife bought the house for $ 500,000 and then agreed to rent it out to the previous owner for $ 4,000 a month with an option to buy back the house. property for $ 600,000 four months later.
“The language was like the best of times, that’s what you need to do to make sure the bank doesn’t take you home,” the witness told the Discipline Committee.
“I walk in there like Kevin [Bratch], is in my corner, it is not somebody who, who is on the other side of the table in a deal. “
The deal ultimately ended in court after Bratch and his wife sued the owner, who responded by saying the deal was “unreasonable.”
The three parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in December 2017.
“I wear the different hats”
The Real Estate Board Discipline Committee reviewed evidence related to three option-to-purchase lease agreements involving Bratch.
In one case, Bratch evicted an elderly couple from Maple Ridge on Thanksgiving Day 2017 after taking them to the Residential Tenancy Branch, for unpaid rent on a house they agreed to sell for $ 233,000 less than its estimated value to a business controlled by Bratch and his wife.
The board criticized Bratch for not disclosing the nature of his relationship with the company and for not recommending that the couple seek independent legal advice.
This situation aroused the interest of the local media. It also culminated in a lawsuit which was settled in a deal whereby the couple bought their home from Bratch for roughly the same price they originally paid them.
In the third case, the board says Bratch paid $ 154,000 less than the value of a property valued at $ 869,000. He re-leased it to the original owners for $ 4,300 per month.
“When we first signed this agreement, I expressed my concern as to whether or not… [we] would be able to execute the buyback option after only one year, which you assured me of, and I quote: “I am not a monster, I am here to make my investment profitable, if you can’t buy it back after a year i would extend it [sic] another year, ”the original owner said in an email to Bratch, shared with the council.
The original owners couldn’t repurchase the house in a year and ended up renting monthly before moving in December 2018.
According to the ruling, Bratch now resides in the property. It was valued at $ 915,000 in 2019.
Bratch represented himself at the hearing, disputing the allegations against him. He claimed he advised the elderly couple to hire a lawyer and was clear with his clients about the transactions.
According to the ruling, he described himself as wearing “different hats”.
“So I give owners different options and, again, I wear different hats,” Bratch reportedly said.
“So I would wear a mortgage broker’s hat, a real estate agent’s hat and during that time you’re allowed to be… licensed as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent at the same time.”
In addition to the penalties and suspension, Bratch was ordered to complete an “Ethics in Business Practice” course offered by the Real Estate Institute.