On Wednesday, the BC Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) announced that it had issued its largest ever fine to a Kamloops woman who acted as a rental property manager while unlicensed, then failing to comply with a BCFSA order to cease said services.

The fine was issued to Kathy Alaina Bakker and was for $125,000, plus $52,926.26 in investigation and hearing expenses incurred by the BCFSA.

"This is a landmark penalty for BCFSA since legislation was updated to increase maximum penalties for misconduct to $250,000," the BCFSA said in a news release. "BCFSA is sending a clear message that failing to comply with an order and not cooperating with an investigation will not be tolerated."

According to the Reasons for Decision on Liability and Sanction, Bakker admitted to providing an assortment of rental property management services relating to 10 properties located in Kamploops, while unlicensed, under Girl Fix It and/or GFI Properties, between December 2019 and August 2022.

Those services include advertising rental properties, trying to find tenants for the property, collecting rents or security deposits for the use of real estate, as well as -- on behalf of the property owners -- making payments to third parties, negotiating and entering tenancy agreements, and managing landlord-tenant matters such as arranging for repairs and/or serving eviction notices.

Bakker also admitted to receiving payment for acting as the rental property manager while unlicensed, for at least nine of the 10 rental properties, according to the BC Financial Services Authority. The 10 properties have not been publicized, but the BCFSA published a public alert in March 2022.

The investigation found that the President of the brokerage Bakker was previously employed at reported her on January 24, 2020.

Bakker was employed as an Assistant Residential Manager at the (unnamed) brokerage until around November 2019, and the brokerage paid for her enrol in the Rental Property Management Licensing Course -- in order to obtain a license under the BC Real Estate Services Act (RESA) -- in both 2015 and 2017, but Bakker never successfully completed the course.

Bakker, as well as Girl Fix It/GFI Properties had also not met any criteria set out in the RESA that would've allowed them to be exempted from licensing requirements.

In a letter on January 6, 2021, the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) informed Bakker of the allegations made against her and requested that she respond by January 20. She did not, but then did so on January 26, after the OSRE re-sent the letter.

The BCFSA says that Bakker "indicated that she was not aware that a license was required, as she had been employed with [Brokerage 1] without a license." Bakker also said that she would end the contracts she had for property management, but wanted to discuss whether she could continue tenant-placement services without a license.

Bakker then stopped replying, did not comply with an order to produce records and cease the unlicensed activity, and continued to act as the rental property manager for properties.

At the hearing, which was ultimately held on February 15 and March 6, 2023, Bakker testified on her own behalf, saying that after she left the brokerage, her intention was to start a painting, cleaning, and small repairs company, which she called Girl Fix It, but that she had several property owners she worked with at the brokerage ask if she could continue to manage their properties.

Bakker also acknowledged that she was aware that a license was required to act as a rental property manager in BC, "but indicated that she felt like she was simply continuing to do the work she had done" when she was employed at the brokerage. She later admitted that she was not able to sign lease agreements at the brokerage and that rents collected then went into a trust account.

Regarding why she did not respond to the BCFSA letters and order, Bakker said she was told by a lawyer that the BCFSA had "bigger fish to fry" and that she ought to just ignore it, and admitted that she doesn't think she had done anything wrong and did not understand why she needed to be licensed.

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The Chief Hearing Officer for the case, Andrew Pendray, acknowledged that "it is true that there was not significant harm to the public," but that Bakker "flaunted the law and the efforts of the regulator to enforce the law, and that she did so in order to obtain a financial benefit of significance."

Pendray also noted that there were several "significant aggravating factors" that resulted in the hefty fine Bakker was issued, including issuing new advertisements for properties after telling regulators she would end her property management contracts, removing traces of GFI in order to avoid detection, telling a media outlet that her business had closed in April 2021 while continuing to operate, and more.

"In general terms," Pendray wrote in the decision, "I do not consider the evidence to support a conclusion that [Bakker] can be said to have taken any real responsibility for her misconduct."

"While the evidence does not support a conclusion that any members of the public experienced a significant loss related to [Bakker's] conduct," Pendray added, "the mitigating aspect of the fact is lessened by the fact that [Bakker] was collecting significant amounts of rent and not placing them in trust. While the evidence does not support a conclusion that members of the public experienced any actual harm of significance, the risk of such harm was clear."

The decision and fine was issued on April 17, and Bakker has 30 days to appeal the decision.