A NEW statutory board – the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) – is taking over the licensing of real estate agencies to raise the industry’s professionalism and better safeguard consumer interest. The Ministry of National Development on Thursday said it will introduce a Bill in Parliament in the second half of the year to set up the CEA, which will require Singapore’s 30,000 real estate agents to work through only one agency and wear a standard identification card in the course of work.
They also cannot be undischarged bankrupts, possess criminal records involving fraud or dishonesty, or have previous track records of complaints as agents. Registered agents have to pass an exam and undertake compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) for six hours a year – to ensure they have knowledge of the latest Government policy changes and procedures. CPD hours are expected to increase over time.
However, current estate agencies and agents 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 the new exam. Those who have not passed any present test will be given one year after the new exam kicks off to pass. In the interim, they will be given provisional registration. Besides licensing powers, the board can warn, fine, suspend and debar agencies and agents who fail to comply with the new codes. It will continue referring alleged criminal offences such as fraud and cheating to the Police.
To help consumers seek redress on disputes and contractual matters, CEA will require estate agencies and agents to participate in mediation and adjudication by tapping on existing facilities such as CASE and the Singapore Mediation Centre to resolve disputes.