THE Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has issued a fresh call for greater regulation of property agents plying Singapore’s red-hot property market.
The call comes amid a rising number of complaints against agents in a market where fast money can be made.
Case president Yeo Guat Kwang told The Straits Times on Thursday that talks with relevant government agencies were held last month to discuss mandatory licensing for housing agents.
‘There is very little control at the moment on the behaviour of estate agents, and many users have suffered as a result,’ said Mr Yeo, an MP for Aljunied GRC, addressing property agency PropNex’s quarterly convention.
Case’s renewed calls for intervention from the authorities follow a recent media report on a property agent who allegedly tried to sell the same flat twice to different buyers.
Mr Yeo said industry regulation could involve some form of compulsory standardised tests and training before any agent is allowed to operate.
Currently, there is no compulsory qualification or licence requirement for housing agents. To operate, an agent only has to join a licensed property agency, whose licence is issued by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras).
At last month’s talks, Iras, the Housing Board, Case and the Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) met to discuss the need for more industry regulation.
Iras is ‘currently reviewing’ the situation, and more meetings will be held’, said Mr Yeo.
The IEA represents about 1,000 agents and aims to act for the entire industry eventually.
Two months ago, it launched a new ‘practising certificate’ for its members, aimed at boosting their credibility and giving homebuyers and sellers more confidence in the professionalism of these agents.
In a show of support for greater industry regulation, PropNex on Thursday held a ceremony in which 100 of its members pledged to abide by the IEA’s code of conduct.
‘We need to show that agents will take responsibility for their actions,’ said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.
Although becoming an IEA member is not compulsory for agents, Mr Ismail said at least 1,000 of PropNex’s 6,000-strong team will be IEA members by year-end.
Mr Yeo added: ‘For extra protection, consumers should look for agents who have practising certificates.’
The IEA has a disciplinary and mediation board that deals with disputes and can take actions like suspending or expelling a member. Such records are also sent to Iras, which issues licences, said IEA president Jeff Foo.
Complaints lodged against estate agents have almost doubled in the last two years.
Case said it received 991 complaints last year, up from 672 in 2005 and 469 in 2004.
Source : Straits Times - 3 Nov 2007