Due to come into effect from July 1 next year, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has released its Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on national licensing for the real estate industry.
The new rules will seek to replace the mutual recognition of real estate licenses that currently exists between state and territory jurisdictions.
The RIS outlines three options, namely retaining the status quo; automatic mutual recognition, where similar to ‘driver’s licences, each license would be declared equivalent, being recognised by every other state and territory without the licensee having to reapply for a licence or pay any additional fee; or three, national licensing, which is COAG’s preferred option.
“A national licensing system would provide a single policy approach to licence categories, regulated work and the eligibility requirements to obtain a property occupational licence,” COAG said. “This would allow a person to work anywhere in Australia where the relevant work is licensed without having to reapply for a licence or pay any additional fee. A national licensing register would be established.”
The president of Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), Pamela Bennett, has welcomed the announcement of national licensing but has warned against settling for a lowest common denominator outcome.
According to the REIA, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and South Australia all face a lowering of educational qualifications, from Diploma to Certificate IV. Ongoing compulsory professional development will also be abolished.
The REIA wants COAG to agree to a national licensing system which: requires real estate agents to achieve a diploma level for licensing; requires compulsory continuing professional development, and; requires licensing for commercial agency work.
“REIA supports national licensing and recognises the benefits this will bring to both the industry and to consumers through improved mobility between jurisdictions, an end to overlapping laws and a uniform approach across Australia. However, it is imperative that standards are not lowered for the sake of expediency”, Ms Bennett said.
“The key to providing a low-risk professional service to home buyers is through a high level of initial qualification and through compulsory ongoing professional development to maintain these standards and to keep abreast of the changing regulatory environment that agents operate in”, Ms Bennett added.
“The need for a high level of training and professionalism is across the spectrum of real estate transactions. With more and more individuals having an exposure to commercial real estate, either directly or through their superannuation fund, it is equally important that buyers and sellers are receiving sound support by having the sale of commercial property undertaken by licensed professionals”, continued Ms Bennett.
Other items COAG is seeking to change include:
- Under national licensing, a set of nationally uniform licence categories for the property occupations has been developed. The proposed licence categories that would apply to specified regulated work are real estate agent, business agent, strata managing agent, auctioneer and agent’s representative
- One- or three-year licence periods are being proposed and would be available for all licence types, including property agent’s representative registration
- Licence fees will be set in jurisdictional legislation, and it is likely that they will continue to differ across jurisdictions. It is proposed that licensees will pay their licence fee and renewals according to their primary place of residence
- The removal of the requirement for continuing professional development: licensees would no longer need to spend time on and pay the fees associated with annual mandatory training courses
According to the RIS, the national licensing option would see the licensing authority take on two roles, namely to be the central coordinator of future policy consideration and reforms, and to maintain the national public licensing register and its supporting database.
“The licensing authority would have responsibility for the national licensing legislation, but would delegate to the jurisdictional licensing agencies the operation of licensing services, e.g. processing applications and carrying out enforcement and compliance activities.”
A six week consultation process is now underway and there are calls for both industry and consumers to make their views known. To obtain a copy of the RIS, please click here.