A crackdown on misbehaving agents has led to a warning that consumers would be “horrified” if they knew how easy it was to get accredited.
NSW Fair Trading announced that it had fined several unnamed agents and agencies after a “real estate compliance blitz” that targeted 114 offices in Sydney.
Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox said 17 agents had each received $550 fines, while four agencies had each been fined $1,100.
Mr Mason-Cox said they were guilty of unlicensed trading, failure to complete mandatory education to remain accredited and poor record-keeping.
“In the past year, NSW Fair Trading inspected close to 500 real estate agencies across the state and handed out $120,000 in fines to agents and agencies,” he said.
Consumer Affairs Victoria also said it had identified some misbehaving agents through its ongoing compliance monitoring inspection program.
These unidentified agents failed to properly maintain their trust accounts, failed to lodge trust account audits on time and improperly withdrew funds held in trust, the regulator said.
One agent was fined more than $3,500 for a range of offences, including early withdrawal of commissions.
Consumer Affairs Victoria said such action is a red flag that a business may be under financial pressure and that further serious breaches may follow.
Real Estate Institute of NSW president Malcolm Gunning said that things are getting worse rather than better when it comes to compliance, at least in NSW.
Mr Gunning told Real Estate Business that while most agents are competent, some lack the knowledge to understand that their actions might be breaching official guidelines.
“The level of entry into the real estate industry is at the lowest it’s ever been as far as qualifications are concerned,” Mr Gunning said.
“The general public think that we have a much higher level of qualification than we actually do. I think if the public knew that the salesperson handling their property – their most valuable asset – only had a few days’ training, they’d be horrified.”
Mr Gunning said the institute had repeatedly pressed the state and federal governments to make it harder for agents to gain accreditation.