Mainstream and trade publications have lumped real estate agents with convicted burglars, fraudsters and murderers in recent media reports.
In an article first published in New Limited’s The Courier-Mail, and later reported by Australian Broker Online, journalist Kieran Rooney wrote that a person could become a real estate agent in Queensland even after committing serious crimes.
The article in The Courier-Mail, ran with the headline; 'Ex-criminals can sell real estate in Queensland even after committing serious crimes', while Australian Broker Online's story was titled: 'Are your referral partners convicted criminals?'.
“People who have committed a crime with a maximum sentence of more than three years in jail can be automatically refused a real estate licence or salesperson certificate,” Mr Rooney wrote.
“But offences like computer hacking, affray and forcible entry have small maximum sentences, meaning a person can be convicted of these crimes and apply for the licence within the week.
Mr Rooney went on to say that even murderers, fraudsters and armed robbers could become agents if they waited long enough.
CEO of RE/MAX WA Geoff Baldwin criticised the report as nothing more than typical News Ltd sensationalism and said he was surprised that real estate commentator Andrew Winter would put his name to it.
“I have the utmost respect for Andrew Winter however I think on this one he is turning an anthill into Mt Everest," he said.
“The bottom line is that Chopper Read, if he were still around, could ‘apply’ to be a real estate agent but the chances of him being successful are somewhere between zero and infinitesimal.
The journalist had also failed to explain that the Queensland Office of Fair Trading’s 1,067 complaints about real estate agents represented only one per cent of total dealings, with the majority being found to be unfounded or frivolous, Mr Baldwin added.
Director of Starr Partners Douglas Driscoll said this was a moral issue for the broader society rather than a real estate-related issue.
“The same thing can be applied to any industry so why apply it to ours? In the three most respected industries in a traditional sense of society – law, medicine and accounting – you can still practise if you’ve got a criminal record.
“The fact this journalist has decided to pick on our industry is bewildering and baffling at best.”
Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Anton Kardash told Real Estate Business individuals applying to become a licensed agent had to meet a set criterion set by the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act.
“This also includes criminal history checks through the Queensland Police,” he said. “The Office of Fair Trading executive officer also has discretionary powers to approve or deny a licence if the person is deemed not suitable.
“The executive officer also has the power to impose restrictions and limitations on a licence holder if deemed appropriate.”
A spokesperson for the Queesland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said applicants were automatically disaqualified from holding a license if they had been convicted of a serious offence in the last five years.
"Serious offences are defined as those involving fraud or dishonestly, violence or threat of using violence, drug trafficking, extortion, arson, unlawful stalking, and any offence of a sexual nature.
"OFT also takes into consideration offences older than five years, offences other than serious offences, and patterns of offending."
Similar requirements are also found in other professions such as law. According to the Queensland Law Society, applicants wanting to apply to be practising lawyer in Queensland are required to disclose any criminal charge even if charges were subsequently withdrawn or the applicant was acquitted.