Concerns raised about licensing info sessions

Attendees to national licensing information sessions held in Canberra and Darwin last week said they doubted their concerns about the proposed national licensing regime were being heard by the government bodies charged with implementing the new rules.

Speaking with the Real Estate Business, sales and marketing director for the Independent Property Group (IPG) in Canberra, John Minns, said the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the National Occupational Licensing Authority (NOLA) - the two bodies responsible for implementing national licensing for real estate agents - appeared to have a set opinion prior to the information session.

The new national licensing regime to due to come into effect on July 1, 2013.

Mr Minns said COAG and NOLA were quick to defend the draft national licensing rules, otherwise known as the Consultation Regulation Impact Statements - released last month - and particularly the removal of continuing professional development (CPD) as a requirement for licensing.

“They were trying to be as open minded as they could be," said Mr Minns in relation to the information session run by COAG and NOLA. "But they had the attitude of, ‘We know there's been a backlash from the industry about this, so we’re going to pre-empt it and get out on the front foot as much as possible and convince people that CPD doesn’t benefit the consumer as much as we’d hoped it would'.”

Mr Minns, who helps run one of the largest real estate groups in the ACT, said three main points were raised by attendees.

“Entry level into the industry [was the first issue], the second issue was around CPD, which they believe shouldn’t be regulated… and commercial real estate [was the third issue]," he said.

“One of the interesting comments made by COAG was that they’re removing the regulation of continued professional development so it can give agents a marketing advantage. The argument was that agents who choose to do CPD would look more professional to their clients.”

“And their defence for deregulating commercial property was that because the agents are dealing with sophisticated investors who can regulate themselves.

“However there are a lot of sub-one million dollar transactions in commercial real estate with people buying their local corner shop, which wouldn’t be considered a sophisticated investor.”

The story was much the same in the top end, with CEO of the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory, Quentin Kilian, claiming that COAG made a mockery of the ‘consultation’.

“We brought up three key issues [at the information session], which we honestly think we’re not being listened to," he told Real Estate Business. "Firstly, we object to the dumbing down process for training. I tried to illustrate this point in the meeting.

“In their regulatory impact consultation, they're talking about an entry level of around five units of competency. At the moment in the territory, we have the highest entry level standards in the country; you currently need a Cert IV which is 24 units of competency.

“So we would be forced to essentially take our standards down from 24 units to five. I tried pointing out to the regulators that when an agent’s rep gets his licence, they are doing the same job as a licenced agent. But unlike an electrical trade where your supervisor is standing next to you making sure you don’t electrocute yourself, in the real estate profession your supervisor is more than likely to give you a set of car keys, a diary and a phone and say, ‘Go sell my properties’.

“If the agent’s reps are the ones to receive the bulk of the training, they are more likely to be qualified, proficient, ethical, and [this] lowers consumer risk compared to putting them out in the marketplace with the most basic training possible.”

Mr Kilian stood by the concept of national licensing, but demanded that the Real Estate Institutes be involved in the process.

“The REIs across the country have 80 per cent of the real estate professionals," he said. "So we represent the massive chunk of professionals selling and dealing with real estate and we’re saying we want to raise the bar.

“But COAG is saying, ‘No, trust us, we know better, what you need is the lowest common denominator.’”

Real Estate Institute CEOs have already rejected the way in which COAG has requested industry feedback on draft national licensing rules.

Institutes from Queensland, the ACT, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have boycotted COAG’s “survey monkey” which asks for feedback on the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS).

REIA is concerned about the pre-determined nature of such an approach.

“The survey monkey [online-based survey tool] is nothing more than push-polling and intends to coach responses,” said REIA president Pamela Bennett. “It doesn’t allow for any alternative under national licensing to what the RIS has set forward and further restrains our response to the proposed new regulations and the detail contained within these”.

Upcoming information sessions are as follows:

Melbourne: Novotel on Collins, 270 Collins St, Melbourne, 11 September, 9am-12.30pm

Adelaide: Stamford Grand, Moseley Square, Glenelg, 12 September, 9am-12.30pm

Sydney: Quay Grand Suites, 61 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, 14 September, 1pm-4.30pm

Hobart: The Old Woolstore, 1 Macquarie Street, 19 September, 9am-12.30pm

Brisbane: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Grey Street, Plaza Level, 21 September, 1pm-4.30pm

Perth: Mercure Perth, 10 Irwin Street, Perth, September 25, 1pm-4.30pm

To register your interest in attending these sessions, click here.

If you’d like to have your say about the Consultation Regulation Impact Statements, click here. Submissions must be received by 21 September 2012.

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