CEA receives 151 complaints in first month of operations

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) received 151 complaints in just the first month of operations.

Established on October 22, the new statutory board regulates the real estate industry and can take action against errant housing agents and agencies.

On average, the council received six complaints daily between October 22 and November 28.

Some were over misleading information on advertisements and allegations of fraud and moneylending.

There were even nine complaints from housing agents against other agents.

About half of the complaints were due to unprofessional or poor service provided by estate firms or salespersons. These include being uncontactable or late for appointments.

The council said the more serious complaints will be referred to its disciplinary committee. The public can also choose to go to consumer watchdog CASE or a mediation centre.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said he was not surprised by the number of complaints.

“Since this is the first time we are regulating in a formal way, I would expect a lot of “pent-up demand” for such an avenue for them to vent their complaints.

“I would say that the number of complaints when you first start will be high but I would expect this to taper off over time.”

He added that the council is currently sorting through the backlog of cases to determine which complaints are genuine and which can be dismissed. Some cases may need to be settled through mediation or arbitration.

Mr Mah said the main priority for the moment is to get the register of estate agents and salespersons up and running.

“The sense is that most will qualify, but there may be a small group who may not qualify. So I think they are now working through that. The real stumbling block may well be their past records, some of their recent records. So if they have various criminal records, or disciplinary records, that is the thing that may disqualify them from being a real estate agent.”

Mr Mah did not give figures on just how many housing agents have criminal records.

The council received 32,800 names as of October 22.

Property firm ERA said it submitted 4,800, of which, a hundred do not fulfil the “fit and proper” criteria as they are either undischarged bankrupts or have criminal records.

Eugene Lim, Associate Director, ERA Asia Pacific, said: “We have one salesperson, he’s currently about 40 years old, and when he was much younger, in his teens, he was involved in some fighting. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. So because of that, there was a charge against him. But in this recent exercise, any person with any past record have to declare.”

Mr Lim said those agents who are undischarged bankrupts suffered business failures. He noted that they are good salespersons and have not given the agency any trouble. Mr Lim said that should their application be turned down, ERA would appeal on their behalf.

The council said appeals will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 7 Dec 2010

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