Victoria’s regulator has floated the idea of changing its approach to enforcement to help lift the professional standards of property managers.
An issues paper released by Consumer Affairs invited the public to consider a wide range of potential industry reforms, including to the way in which misconduct is handled.
“There have been multiple issues raised by stakeholders about unprofessional conduct by estate agents, particularly in relation to property management,” according to the issues paper.
Some stakeholders suggested this might be because the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is worried that cancelling people’s licence could seriously damage their livelihood.
“An emerging theme is that the emphasis at present is too heavily weighted towards penalties as a tool for regulation and consideration should be given to other remedies, particularly for estate agents,” the issues paper said.
“In addition, better tools are needed to deal with estate agents … who may have behaved badly but not to a degree that their licences should be cancelled.”
One suggestion that was proposed was to introduce a system of ‘demerit points’ for licence holders, with licences suspended or cancelled once too many points are accrued.
Another suggestion was to establish different tiers of misconduct for which different levels of enforcement would apply.
Stakeholders also raised the idea of introducing a third-party regulatory body such as an ombudsman scheme.
Some industry figures want the penalties under the Estate Agents Act to be reviewed to determine whether they are appropriate to deter misconduct, according to the issues paper.
“While there is annual indexation of penalties, many of the maximum penalties under the Estate Agents Act have not been adjusted in years and are quite low,” it said.
The issues paper is part of the “sweeping review of outdated laws” that the Victorian government announced in August.
A second issues paper in February will cover owners’ corporations, while a third and final issues paper in March will cover sale of land.
Submissions are due by 11 March 2016.
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