What does homes and real estate authority and accountability mean? Today I thought that I would blog on something a bit different. How many times have you encountered people who declared they had rights but did not believe that their rights came with responsibilities? Have you dealt with people in positions of authority who did not understand that their authority also came with accountability?
Why do I bring this up? While I was swimming today in a Comox Valley pool, I noticed a young lifeguard sitting in observation chair reading a book – seemingly disinterested and unaware of what was going on around her. Perhaps nobody had discussed the responsibilities of the position with her. A few nights before a young lifeguard was sitting in a chair fixated to her smartphone. How aware was she and how much immediate help would she be able to offer if a swimmer suddenly had a heart attack and started to go down to the bottom of the pool?
Perhaps laws such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are partially to blame? The Charter establishes democratic, mobility, legal and equality rights for Canadians. For example, this document states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But what about our responsibilities as Citizens of the Comox Valley? If I have the right to not be harmed (security of the person), then others must be responsible not to harm me. If they do not have this responsibility, then how can I be assured of this right? Then there are the issues of individual rights and collective rights. Since most of us do not live alone on an island, we must co-exist with other people around us. Is there a point at which my right to do something is extinguished by my societal responsibilities?
So what exactly are rights? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy rights dominate what actions are permissible and which institutions are just. Rights structure the form of governments, the content of laws, and the shape of morality as it is currently perceived. To accept a set of rights is to approve a distribution of freedom and authority, and so to endorse a certain view of what may, must, and must not be done. Clearly, rights, then, have boundaries. These boundaries involve obligations that could also be called responsibilities. With rights come responsibilities.
What is authority? By most contemporary definitions, authority is the legitimate power granted by some form of governance structure that is exercised by people over other people. This power is given with an expectation of good results while avoiding bad circumstances. In practice, the exercise of this power will often result in some limitation imposed on the freedom of the other person. Consequently,whenever someone exercises power over someone else in our society there is an expectation that the person given the power will be answerable for their decisions, direction, and actions to someone else. When we are given authority we should expect to be accountable for the exercise of that authority.
The same is true in most positions of authority. Many of us will have been selected for, licensed for, or appointed to some position of authority. As a licensed Comox Valley real estate agent I have been given the authority to write contracts that are used to transfer property rights. Yes I did say rights in accordance with established real estate laws and regulations. In Canada, when we talk about owning land, “ownership” involves control of the right to use land (in terms of who and how) and control of the decision to transfer all or a portion of these rights to others. The only real “owner” of the real estate is the Crown (the government). The authority given to me under license as a real estate agent involves the most expensive investment of most people – their homes. Given the importance of the authority given to me, I must be accountable to someone for my actions. I am. I am accountable to my Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and to the Real Estate Council of British Columbia. More importantly, I am accountable to my Comox Valley real estate clients
As a professional for more than 35 years I understand the necessary linkage between rights and responsibilities, and the corresponding linkage between authority and accountability. Unfortunately, just as common sense is not all that common, this understanding is not always commonly understood.
So back to the lifeguard example. A lifeguard is given some limited authority over me as a user of the pool. For example, according to the pool rules I am supposed to do what the lifeguard says in specific situations. Clear the pool when I hear three whistles, etc. While I do not extinguish any of my individual rights when I agree to abide by the pool rules and swim in the pool, there could be some minor limitations placed on my freedoms when I have to follow the directions of the lifeguard. However, the lifeguard also has some limitations established by the responsibilities assigned to her by her employer. When she fails to discharge those responsibilities, there is an expectation that she will be accountable to someone for her actions. Any thoughts on just how much of this those young lifeguards understand? How many similar situations have you observed in the past year? Who should be reminding us all of the linkages between rights, responsibilities, authority, and accountability? Contact Brett Cairns of RE/MAX Ocean Pacific Realty to discuss your rights and expectations as a real estate client and let Brett be accountable to you to meet your real estate needs.