Fewer illegal activities after CEA’s new real estate regulations

The new framework was designed to professionalise an industry whose image had been tarred by a few black sheep.

Six months on, real estate firms that MediaCorp spoke to said the Council for Estate Agencies’ (CEA) strict rules have reined in illegal moneylending, cashback and subletting.

The prospect of losing one’s licence or being suspended has been an effective deterrent, said Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh. “It’s just not worth it when your ricebowl is at stake,” he said.

Propnex chief executive and Institute of Estate Agents president Mohamed Ismail said advertisements for flats for rent with one room locked – to circumvent the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) subletting rules – are rarely seen these days. There were also fewer “misleading” advertisements. These would draw warnings from the CEA, he said.

Still, the CEA is investigating 20 cases of unregistered agents and six cases of unlicensed firms. On Wednesday, Tan Cher Peng, 45, became the first person to be charged in court under the new regulations.

A CEA spokesman said yesterday: “CEA has the legislative powers to prosecute a person who has committed offences under the Estate Agent Act such as in the case of Tan, who carried out estate agency work as an unregistered salesperson.”

Letters of advice are also issued to estate agents (companies) and salespersons for disciplinary breaches, he said, stressing that agents are responsible for ensuring the lawful conduct of their salespersons.

With the new framework, the barriers of entry have also been raised, resulting in some part-time agents exiting the industry, leaving only those “serious” about the profession, said industry players. There were 1,515 licensed estate agents and 32,221 registered salespersons as of May 31, compared to an estimated industry high of 50,000 at one time.

The required annual registration fees, professional indemnity insurance and professional training mean an outlay of some S$1,000 to S$2,000 for new entrants, said Orange Tee executive director Steven Tan.

Mr Tan noted that passing the industry examinations did not mean instant returns either, as one’s first cheque would only come in months later, all while chalking up costs for advertising and transport.

Source : Today – 3 Jun 2011

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