Estate Agents Bill passed

MPs speak out in support of the measures aimed at making the industry more professional

Parliament yesterday passed the Estate Agents Bill aimed at shaking up the real estate industry and making it more professional.

When the new statutory board, the Council of Estate Agents (CEA), starts operation on Oct 22 – it will have the power to set codes of practice, ethics and professional conduct to regulate the practices of estate agencies and their agents.

From Jan 1 next year, all property agents will have to be registered with the CEA. They will have to meet certain standards to continue working.

Information on all registered estate agents will also be available on a public register, including the agency they are working for. Any disciplinary action taken against them will also be published.

The Bill comes after a rising number of complaints against errant agents.

It follows a recent housing Bill passed by Parliament in July to close a loophole which had allowed moneylenders to lodge caveats on HDB flats to claim a stake in sale proceeds.

Members of Parliament have spoken out in support of the measures.

Mr Cedric Foo, MP for West Coast GRC, wanted to know whether the CEA would consider those with criminal records or undischarged bankrupts to enter the industry.

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said he would ask the CEA to consider applications on a “case-by-case basis and not to automatically disqualify these people from the trade”.

When MPs Lim Biow Chuan, Ang Mong Seng and Cynthia Phua asked whether the CEA would prescribe the amount of commission real estate agents could charge – currently between one and two per cent – Mr Mah said: “The CEA cannot fix the commission charged because it is anti-competitive.”

He added that it is “better” for commission rates to be decided by the market and to educate consumers so that they can negotiate the “best commission rates based on the level of services to be provided”.

MP for West Coast GRC, Ms Ho Geok Choo, expressed concern that those moonlighting as real estate agents could lose their full-time jobs if they are listed in the public register.

Mr Mah said: “The new regulatory regime does not prohibit people from doing part-time real estate work. But it will require all persons doing real estate agency work, part-time or full-time, to be registered.”

He added that this is not to “deter” part-timers, but if they want to be part of this industry, they must be registered.

“I don’t think we should exempt them from this, they will have to sort it out with their employer,” he said.

Source : Today – 16 Sep 2010

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