In Ontario, Can Home Buyers and Sellers Use the Same Real Estate Lawyer?

Did you know realtors in Ontario are permitted to represent both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction?

It’s true. The Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA) allows a realtor to act for both sides of a deal – so long as the realtor abides by conflict of interest rules – and many Kitchener realtors do just that.

However, if you’re looking for a real estate lawyer in Kitchener to do the same thing, you’re in for a surprise.

All lawyers in Ontario, including real estate lawyers, are regulated by the Law Society of Ontario and bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules set strict limitations on how lawyers manage conflicts of interest – and representing both sides of a real estate transaction is prohibited.

With a few exceptions. We’ll get to those.

The reason why the Rules of Professional Conduct don’t allow real estate lawyers to represent the buyer and seller at once is that lawyers owe each of their clients a duty of loyalty. That means the lawyer is required to act in the client’s best interests (within ethical boundaries) and exert sound judgement on the client’s behalf.

The Rules recognize that lawyers are best able to do that when they are not under the influence of competing interests. Lawyers are only human, after all, and it’s nigh impossible to look out for two directly opposing interests at once.

The buyer’s goal is to get the best price – the seller’s goal is to get the most money. Those are competing interests. So, lawyers cannot represent both the plaintiff and the defendant in the same lawsuit, nor the buyer and seller in the same real estate transaction.

There are three exceptions to the rule:

  • Lawyers can sign a land transfer on behalf of both a transferor and a transferee under the Land Registration Reform Act.
  • If the buyer and seller are relatives (as defined by s.251 of the Income Tax Act), a lawyer can represent both.
  • If the lawyer practices law in a remote location where neither party could retain another lawyer without undue inconvenience, a lawyer can represent both.

The third exception would not apply to the Kitchener region. While it is possible to share a realtor with the other party, chances are you’ll have to go looking for a real estate lawyer in Kitchener who represents your interests alone.

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