A prominent West Vancouver real estate agent committed professional misconduct when he pressured a seller into agreeing to give him a $75,000 bonus, the B.C. Real Estate Council has determined.
The council – charged with regulating professional conduct of Realtors - released its decision Dec. 22 into the conduct of real estate agent Shahin Behroyan of Re/Max Masters Realty.
A three-member panel held a hearing in September into a complaint about Behroyan’s professional conduct in connection with the sale of a $2.7-million home on Kings Avenue in West Vancouver in November of 2014.
This week, the panel released the results of that hearing, finding Behroyan’s demand for a bonus – which effectively doubled the size of his commission – created a conflict of interest between himself and the seller of the property.
In telling the sellers that the bonus was for the buyer’s agent – rather than himself – and that the offer to buy the property was contingent on that bonus being paid, Behroyan’s action constituted “deceptive dealing” and was a breach of his duty to act honestly, the council determined, “as it forced (the seller) to pay a bonus that he was not obliged to pay in order to receive the offer.”
Behroyan also failed to tell the sellers that he had recently sold the buyers’ home in West Vancouver. “This was clearly material information that could have signalled to (the sellers) there was a need for further inquiry in the circumstances,” wrote the three-member disciplinary panel.
The panel also found Behroyan had failed to tell the sellers that the buyer’s agent had agreed to split her commission with him.
The bonus that was the primary issue in the hearing “more than doubled the total commission” on the real estate deal, from just over $68,000 to just over $143,000, the disciplinary panel noted.
In his testimony before the disciplinary panel, the seller – who was acting as an agent for his widowed mother – was insistent that “at no point did he ever offer to pay Mr. Behroyan a bonus,” the panel noted. Instead, the seller said he was “shocked about the demand for the bonus.”
When he questioned Behroyan, the seller said Behroyan told him that’s how “properties with problems” were sold, adding that the buyer’s agent was doing the sellers a favour.
The seller “insisted he had lots of questions and concerns but felt pressured because he wanted to sell his home,” according to the disciplinary panel.
Behroyan presented a very different version of events to the panel.
He “began his evidence by stating that he was a successful Realtor,” according to the panel.
“He said that he was ranked in the top five in world for Re/Max and was consistently ranked in the top one per cent in the Greater Vancouver area."
Behroyan told the panel the seller first suggested a bonus on Oct. 27, 2014 – well before an offer was made. Further discussions of the bonus took place on Nov. 7, Behroyan told the panel, when the seller asked what would be fair. Behroyan told the panel he “tossed out” a figure of $100,000, later bringing that down to $75,000.
He told the panel he never suggested the bonus was for someone other than himself and did not tell the sellers that an offer was contingent on the bonus, calling that “absolutely false. I would never do that.” He added he told the seller he had acted for the buyers in the sale of their home and expected to receive half of the buyers’ agent’s commission.
The panel described the evidence of Behroyan and the seller as “diametrically opposed on the crucial events.”
But the panel said it found Behroyan’s explanation surrounding the negotiation of the bonus “unconvincing.” “The type of negotiation that occurred appeared more like something that was part of a deal than some amount that (the seller) had volunteered to pay,” the panel wrote.
The panel concluded that (the seller’s) testimony was the most consistent with the preponderance of probabilities.”
A hearing to determine a penalty will not be held until the spring of 2018.
Meanwhile, a trial in a civil lawsuit filed by the seller Mahin Hosseinalizadeh-Khorassani against Behroyan in B.C. Supreme Court is scheduled to begin in March.
The lawsuit also names the brokerage for “abdication of professional responsibility” in failing to supervise Behroyan. Both Behroyan and Re/Max Masters Realty have denied any wrongdoing.
Scott Griffin, a lawyer acting for the sellers in the civil suit, said the disciplinary panel’s decision “illustrates that real estate agents are fiduciaries who have a strict legal obligation to act honestly and solely in the best interests of their client, at all times making full and transparent disclosure of facts. The real estate council found that Mr. Behroyan breached his duties in every material way.”
He called on Behroyan to immediately repay all commissions and bonuses received on the real estate deal.
In response to the decision, Behroyan said the panel ignored “crucial evidence” in reaching its conclusion.
“I work exceptionally hard for my clients, in an ethical manner, and get results,” he said.
Behroyan said he will be appealing the decision.