Brenda and Gord Gartley were evicted from their family home on Thanksgiving. (Contributed)

Realtor who evicted elderly Maple Ridge couple has licence suspended

Kevin Bratch of Bratch Realty Ltd. is accused of engaging in aggressive marketing and sales practices targeting vulnerable persons

The realtor who evicted an elderly Maple Ridge couple from their home on Thanksgiving has had his licence suspended indefinitely.

The Real Estate Council of B.C. suspended the licence of Kevindeep (Kevin) Singh Bratch, of Bratch Realty Ltd., effective immediately, while it investigates his marketing and sales practices.

Bratch is accused of engaging in aggressive marketing and sales practices targeting vulnerable persons “who were financially distressed as a result of their homes being in foreclosure,” according to the council.

He or another partner would purchase homes at under-valued market prices. The sellers could then exercise an option to repurchase their homes, entering into tenancy agreements at above-market rental prices.

In the written reasons given for the suspension, the Real Estate Council said that the brochure that Bratch was showing to potential clients claimed that such transactions were a valuable and beneficial opportunity for sellers, that they would have the opportunity to clear up credit issues or resolve uncertainties while paying rent, with some of the rent money potentially going towards the down-payment of buying back their home, along with an option of purchasing their home back within three years.

But, the Real Estate Council wrote in the document: “The terms of the scheme were oppressive and burdensome to the sellers/tenants/option-holders.

“While the brochure referred to options for sellers to re-buy within three years, option agreements were in fact limited to 12 months or less.”

And tenants had to live up to all other terms of the lease agreements.

The consequences of “default” in any respect with the lease were draconian, with “automatic revocation of this option,” said the document.

The council is also investigating whether Bratch used predatory schemes for personal gain at the expense of the people who were in distress.

Bratch was behind the rent-to-own agreement with Maple Ridge couple Brenda and Gord Gartley, who entered in to one in 2016, with the realtor and his partner, after they fell behind on their mortgage payments and the bank started foreclosing on their home.

The agreement enabled Bratch and a numbered company owned by his partner to purchase the property from the Gartley’s for $400,000, even though it was worth $603,000. The Gartley’s only received $370,000 of the money and the numbered company gave a declared value of the property to the Land Title Office of $370.000.

The difference in value became the equity of Bratch and the company unless the sellers could maintain and exercise their option right.

Within a few months of purchase, Bratch and his partner had the numbered company transfer the property into their names with a new declared value of $426,000.

The Gartleys had to pay rent without default and repay the $400,000 within 12 months.

However, the Gartleys were evicted after they were accused of breaching the rent-to-own agreement with the Surrey realtor and his partner.

They then camped in a tent in Golden Ears Provincial Park.

Neighbours of the couple rallied together to try and help them keep their house. Bruce MacDonald and his wife Trish Tait, who live directly across from where the elderly couple lived, started a Go Fund Me page to help them with legal fees to get the house back.

In one month, 94 people raised $5,247 of the $10,000 goal.

The Real Estate Council noted that it is aware of at least two instances in which Bratch carried out the rent-to-own agreements and has knowledge of at least seven other transactions in which he may have engaged in similar conduct.

It has not yet fully investigated the other transactions.

The Real Estate Council of B.C. is a regulatory agency established by the provincial government to protect the public by enforcing the licensing and licensee conduct requirements of the Real Estate Services Act.

The discipline committee ordered that Bratch not work in any unlicensed assistant capacity or provide real estate services to or on behalf of any member of the public during the term of their licence suspensions.

New rules were released Nov. 15 by the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate to improve consumer protection in the real estate industry and will come into effect March 15, 2018.

These include:

• require enhanced disclosure of real estate licensee remuneration that will inform consumers about how remuneration is to be divided between a listing brokerage and co-operating brokerage;

• ensure licensees inform consumers of the duties and responsibilities owed to both clients and unrepresented parties before working with consumers;

• warn consumers of the risks of relying on a licensee to provide limited assistance if the licensee already represents another party to the transaction;

• prohibit “dual agency,” the practice of acting on behalf of both the buyer and seller on the same deal.

There will be a small exemption to the dual agency prohibition in situations where a particular property is so remote as to make finding another agent extremely difficult. But strict reporting requirements will apply in such circumstances.

British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to prohibit the practice.

As of Wednesday morning, a BratchRealty website with the URL, listing Bratch as the contact agent, had six properties listed in Hollywood, Florida.

The site touts Bratch Realty as a privately owned Real Estate Brokerage that provides investor clients with tools and skills needed to become successful in Real Estate investing, with a special section on foreclosure investing and also offers a free e-book on real estate investing secrets.

The website says that Bratch Realty is owned and operated by Bratch, who has been in the real estate industry for more than 12 years operating mainly in the Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley areas.

“Bratch Realty has the team that can provide you with truly all around Foreclosure Investing advice. We have the ability to do this because we not only specialize in Foreclosures we invest in them as well,” said a description on the site.

Bratch was unavailable for comment.

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