MND has proposed to set up a new board to regulate the real estate industry

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) under the Ministry of National Development (MND) will replace the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's (IRAS') as the licensing authority for 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.

More stringent criteria

Real estate agencies will have to satisfy new and more stringent conditions to qualify for their licences.

For instance, the licensees must not be undischarged bankrupts, possess criminal records involving fraud or dishonesty, or have previous track records of complaints as agents.

They also need to comply with a Code of Practice that stipulates systems and processes for areas such as agents' training, complaints handling and dispute resolution.

Agencies will also be expected to exercise effective supervision of their agents and take responsibility for their actions. To enable agencies to do so, all estate agents are to contract with only one agency.

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. The number of CPD hours will be increased over time to raise the professional standards of the industry.

Measures aimed at avoiding a conflict of interest, such as the dual representation of both the buying and selling parties, will be put in place.

Discipline and dispute resolution

The new regulatory framework will also include legislative powers and mechanisms to investigate and discipline agencies and agents.

Disciplinary actions will include warnings, fines, suspension and debarment of agencies and agents. Alleged criminal offences such as fraud and cheating will continue to be referred to the Police.

There will also be a dedicated dispute resolution process which will tap on existing dispute resolution facilities such as CASE and the Singapore Mediation Centre.

Public registry for real estate agencies and agents

Consumers will be able to check on the agency or agent they are engaging by tapping on a new public registry.

The registry will provide a comprehensive listing of all licensed agencies and registered agents, with records of disciplinary actions taken over the last three years or any recognition and award received.

Agents will also be required to wear a standard agent identification card when doing estate agency work.

Exemptions for current agencies and agents

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 educational qualification criterion.

Those who have passed an industry examination will not be required to take a new examination.

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

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

New regulatory framework

* New Statutory Board - Council for Estate Agencies - to strengthen regulation of real estate agency industry
* Enhanced Licensing for Estate Agencies
o At least 3 years of working experience (enhanced)
o Completed at least 30 property transactions in past 3 years, of which at least
10 must be private properties and at least 10 must be HDB flats transactions (enhanced)
o Have minimum 4 GCE O Level passes or equivalent (new)
o Fulfill fit and proper criteria (new) such as
(i) Must not be an un-discharged bankrupt;
(ii) Must not possess criminal records involving fraud or dishonesty;
(iii) Must not have previous track record of complaints or convictions.
o Put in place systems and processes to ensure proper management of business and agents (new)
o Be covered under a Professional Indemnity Insurance (new)
o Must not be a licensed moneylender or an employee of a licensed moneylender (new)
* Registration of Agents through their Agencies
o Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident
o Must be at least 21 years old
o Not be registered with another agency or be an existing licensee of an agency
o Have minimum 4 GCE O-Level passes or equivalent
o Pass examination for estate agents
o Undertake mandatory continuing professional development
o Fulfill fit and proper criteria such as
(i) Must not be an un-discharged bankrupt;
(ii) Must not possess criminal records involving fraud or dishonesty;
(iii) Must not have previous track record of complaints or convictions;
o Must not be a licensed moneylender or an employee of a licensed moneylender.
* Regulations on Conduct of Real Estate Agency Work
o Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
o Standard prescribed estate agency agreements
o No dual representation
* Mechanisms for Discipline and Dispute Resolution
o Disciplinary actions such as warnings, fines, suspension and debarment
o Dedicated dispute resolution mechanism covering both mediation and adjudication
* Public Education
o Agent identification card
o Public registry of agencies and agents


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