A B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered a real estate licensing tutor to stop training students in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond because he was violating a no-competition agreement with his former employer.
In a May 1 written decision, Justice Nitya Iyer said Quick Pass Master Tutorial School Ltd. owner Benson Min Hung Wang alleged that Li Min (Richard) Zhao opened his own competing tutorial school in Burnaby the day after Zhao terminated his contract early with Quick Pass. Quick Pass prepares Mandarin-speakers for the University of British Columbia’s real estate licence exam.
Zhao worked for Wang on a two-year contract that prohibited Zhao from soliciting Quick Pass students and from competing with it for specified period. “It also provided that Quick Pass owned all material relating to its business, including any material created by Mr. Zhao while under contract to Quick Pass, whether or not he created it at Quick Pass’s direction,” Iyer wrote.
“(Zhao) has advertised and marketed his school to the Mandarin-speaking community, including to students of Quick Pass. He uses materials that he says he developed for use in his own program, but which he must have developed while working for Quick Pass since he opened his school the next day. Mr. Zhao does not really dispute these facts. He says that these contractual terms are unenforceable.”
Wang opened Quick Pass in July 2015 as the sole director, offering tutorials for real estate, mortgage broker and rental property management exams at locations in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey. The real estate program is based on the University of B.C.’s real estate licensing course and examination.
Zhao immigrated to Canada in 2013 and passed the real estate exam in 2016. He signed two contracts in June 2017 with Quick Pass, agreeing to teach for two years, until June 2019. The contracts said Zhao was barred from competing with Quick Pass for 18 months following termination. On top of his $35 an hour rate, he would receive a $15 per hour bonus while the non-competition agreement was in effect.
On Sept. 21, 2017, Zhao incorporated the Richard Zhao Real Estate School Ltd. while under contract with Quick Pass. He informed Wang two days later, on Sept. 23, 2017, that he would resign and open his own school.
In an uncontradicted affidavit, Wang testified: “I reminded him of his contractual obligations to return all tutorial handouts, power point slides and notes, and to destroy any copies. He said I had no control over that. He said if I take legal action, he will retaliate by spending a whole month recreating the plaintiff’s teaching materials and posting them on YouTube for free, which he suggested would destroy the market.”
Zhao opened his company on Nov. 1, 2017, the day after his contracts ended, and advertised on WeChat, among other places. He claimed he did not use any of the Quick Pass course materials, but instead developed his own.
The judge granted the injunction over the non-compete clause, to restrain Zhao from competing “in any aspect of the business of providing pre-licensing real estate training anywhere in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond until April 30, 2019, or until the trial or other disposition of this action, or until further order of this court.”
The judge did not agree to issue the two other restraining orders. Iyer wrote that the non-solicitation clause did not contain an express geographic restriction and the confidential information clause was too broad. It would have had a severe impact on Zhao’s ability to carry-on business.
On his website, GetRealEstateLicences.com, Wang says he has been a real estate agent since 2010 who has helped more than 800 students at UBC pass their real estate, mortgage and rental property management classes since 2011. He charges $360 to $1,100 for courses and claims a 90% pass rate, ambitiously guaranteeing that students will pass the courses and exams on their first try “as long as they keep their noses to the grindstone (or their textbooks), work hard and follow all of Benson Wang’s guidelines for success.”
There is, however, small print on the website that that requires $100 payment to qualify for Wang’s five-point “guarantee to pass policy.”
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