MND proposes new stat board to regulate real estate agency industry

The Ministry of National Development (MND) plans to set up a new statutory board to raise the professionalism of the real estate agency industry and to better safeguard consumer interest.

The proposed statutory board – the Council for Estate Agencies or CEA – will implement a new framework to regulate the industry.

This through the enhanced licensing of estate agencies, registration of estate agents, new regulations on the conduct of estate agency work, discipline and dispute resolution mechanisms, and public education.

CEA will take over the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore’s current role in licensing real estate agencies.

MND will introduce a Bill in Parliament in the second half of this year to set up the new Council and to establish the new regulatory framework.

Real estate agencies will continue to be licensed, but will have to satisfy enhanced licensing conditions.

These conditions seek to ensure that the licensees are competent, fulfill fit and proper criteria, and have in place systems and processes to manage the business and supervise their agents well.

As part of the new registration requirements, estate agents will need to pass a mandatory industry examination, and undertake mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) of six hours a year. This will be increased over time.

To help consumers seek redress on disputes and contractual matters, estate agencies and agents will be required to participate in a dedicated dispute resolution process.

The process will tap on existing dispute resolution facilities such as CASE and the Singapore Mediation Centre.

A public registry of real estate agencies and agents will be set up to provide a comprehensive listing of all licensed agencies and registered agents to allow consumers to check on the particular agency or agent they are engaging.

Arrangements will be made to help existing estate agencies and agents transit to the new licensing and registration framework.

For instance, they will be exempted from the new minimum 4 GCE “O” level passes or equivalent educational qualification criterion.

Those who have passed an industry examination, such as the Common Examination for House Agents, will not be required to take a new examination.

Those who have not passed any existing industry examination will be given one year after the start of the new examination to pass the examination, and be given a provisional registration in the interim.

Existing agents who are un-discharged bankrupts or have past criminal records will be considered for registration on a case-by-case basis.

MND first announced its intent to develop a new regulatory framework for estate agencies in August last year.

It will continue working out further details of the new framework over the next few months.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 6 May 2010

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