Thursday, December 30, 2010

CEA starts licensing firms, agents

THE newly set up Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has approved 1,190 licence applications from real estate firms as well as 27,754 registration applications for property agents, it said yesterday.

Previous estimates from the government - provided before CEA was set up - put the number of property firms and agents at 1,700 and 30,000 respectively. But industry players were expecting the number of firms and agents to fall with the establishment of the industry watchdog and stricter rules.

CEA also said that it turned down 210 applicants who do not meet the required criteria to be agents. The denied would- be agents were mainly found to have criminal records or records of offences involving fraud or dishonesty.

A public register of licensed firms and registered agents will be available on CEA's website from Jan 1. The register will display the name, licence or registration number, the firm the agent is working for, validity period, and records of offences committed or disciplinary actions taken, if any. Recent photographs of agents will also be available for easy identification from March 1.

CEA has been receiving licensing applications from both new and existing real estate firms since Nov 1. Property firms were also required to register salespersons who meet all of CEA's criteria by Nov 30.

Going forward, CEA will also implement a prescribed dispute resolution scheme - involving mediation and arbitration - in January. Firms are required to participate in the scheme once the consumer has elected to proceed.

The agency also clarified yesterday that estate agency work concerning land banking products will not be regulated under the Estate Agents Act 2010.

Said CEA: 'This is because estate agents marketing land banking products are more likely to provide financial investment advice than to make representations on a property. Consumers should practice caution and exercise due diligence when investing in land banking products.'

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