Gold Coast City Council has been accused of targeting agents conducting open house inspections by enforcing tough legislation on time limits for signage and opening times.
A principal in the Gold Coast area, who wishes to remain anonymous, claimed that “five minutes before the inspection, [the agent] opened the garage and started preparing the property which he got fined for because they say he opened too early”.
John Newlands from the Gold Coast chapter of the REIQ says although it’s not an epidemic, it’s certainly happening.
“From time to time the council cracks down on the industry – probably every couple of years,” Mr Newlands said.
“An agent was fined for draping an auction banner over the fence of a property. I don’t know the full particulars but it’s just crazy,” he added.
Mr Newlands believes, however, the main problem is that the fines don’t fit the crime.
Real Estate Business was contacted by an agent who claims he was fined $2,000 for having his five ‘open for inspection’ directional signs out two hours before the inspection.
Trevor Hodder, a local agent, met with the council ranger who agreed only to fine him for four signs. The figure was then talked down to $1,000 and finally settled at $375.
“I had a meeting with councillors around eight months ago, because the fines exceeded the crimes, but we’ve seen no changes since,” Mr Newlands said.
Some agents are under the impression there have been changes to legislation in the past few months. However, when Real Estate Business contacted the local council, Councillor Grant Pforr hit back at the industry.
“No, there haven’t been any changes, but they are under review,” he said, “so now’s the time to get submissions in to council.
“This legislation was made in consultation with the industry. They helped make these laws, it’s their code of conduct, and it’s just frustrating they are calling foul.”
REIQ’s Mr Newlands, however, claimed Councillor Pforr was misleading the industry: “When I met with him eight months ago, he told me that it was state government legislation that was causing all this mess. Now he’s blaming us,” Mr Newlands said.
“We wouldn’t endorse [these laws] at all. The REIQ do contribute, but we’re an industry body with no power over these matters.”
Both bodies agree, however, that regulation is needed.
“There needs to be more relaxation, but there has been an abuse in the past,” Mr Newlands said. “Agents have put out signs the night before and left them overnight.”
“I’m happy for the industry to talk to council, but they need to be self-regulating,” said Councillor Pforr.
“There are rogues out there who take advantage. Council retaliation is complaint-driven. We only have five guys in the area looking out for issues like this so you’d have to be fairly unlucky for them to stumble across you. So we mainly react to complaints.”
Councillor Pforr also claims they’re not out to make money off the industry. “We’re not out to make profit. It’s all the cost recovery that we’re forced to do,” he said.
The REIQ responded by arguing that if the laws weren’t so strict, the council wouldn’t need to recover the cost of having to regulate such petty laws.