Estate Agents Act amendments takes effect 30 July

The amendments include higher penalties for erring property agencies or agents. 

The Estate Agents (Amendment) Act 2020 which aims to raise professionalism of the real estate agency industry and to better protect consumers interests will come into force on 30 July. 

The Council for Estate Agents (CEA) said the amendments aim to “Better deter errant property agents and agencies from committing disciplinary breaches” to raise consumer confidence and update the regulatory framework to keep up with technology. This will also “Align levers against money laundering and terrorism financing to meet international standards.”

“With the implementation of the Amendment Act, CEA will continue to work together with the industry to reduce errant practices, and foster a professional and trusted real estate agency industry,” it said.

To further prevent misconduct of property agents and agencies, the amendment raised the maximum penalty to be imposed by the CEA Disciplinary Committee to S$200,000 per case from S$75,000 for property agencies and to S$100,000 per case for agents. This will apply to cases referred to the committee upon implementation of the law.

This will also allow the CEA to issue a Letter of Censure and impose penalties up to S$5,000 per case on errant property agents and agencies for minor disciplinary violations.

It added that it prepared a guide on CEA Regulatory and Enforcement Framework on key aspects such as complaint management and enforcement actions against potential criminal offences, among others, which will be available on its website on 30 July.

The Authority will also have reinforced investigation and inspection powers, allowing them to require any person to furnish electronic devices that can be inspected, copied or extracted for investigation before a CEA inspector.

It can also conduct document inspections or property agencies electronically at CEA’s premises. It can also serve documents electronically such as notices to property agencies to submit agents’ transaction records for publishing in the CEA Public Register or notices to agents or agencies on the Authority’s intent to impose penalties under the Letter of Censure disciplinary regime.

The amendments also included duties of property agents and agencies in preventing money laundering and terrorism financing.

The duties include conducting diligence checks, reporting suspicious transactions to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office, and keeping records of relevant information and documents, which are outlined in the new Estate Agents (Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism) Regulations 2021 which will also take effect 30 July.

The Estate Agents Act was enacted in 2010, while the Amendment bill was passed by the Parliament on 5 May 2020.

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