KEEP COMMERCIAL AGENTS LICENSED
Commercial agents who sell property such as shops and offices are alarmed by a proposal from the Commonwealth to allow these transactions without a real estate licence.
Under a plan for national licensing being promoted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Steering Committee behind the plans is proposing to abolish the license for commercial real estate agents altogether.
The COAG taskforce has held information sessions around Australia to discuss the proposals with those in the industry.
Chairman of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia’s Commercial Network, Mr Victor Sankey, said the proposal was very concerning and would allow ‘cowboys’ to enter the industry with little or no knowledge of real estate law or consumer rights.
“This push seems to be based on the mythology that most commercial transactions in property are multi-million dollar deals done by experienced legal firms on behalf of the big retail chains, but this isn’t so,” Mr Sankey said.
Mr Sankey said that the majority of commercial transactions were suburban shops, offices, warehouses and leasing spaces for small business, not the big end of town.
“Consumers are very concerned at the prospect of commercial sales taking place by people who have no understanding of the many and varied laws that apply to such transactions, including the rules around foreign investment, legislation covering contaminated sites, strata titles law, GST implications and more,” Mr Sankey said.
President of the Real Institute of Australia, Ms Pamela Bennett said that doing away with a professional licence for commercial agents across Australia would be bad for the industry and would make consumers vulnerable to inexperienced sales people with no qualifications.
Ms Bennett said, “Commercial real estate transactions were often complex and could produce unexpected issues during the settlement period and it makes no sense to abolish licensing.”
“Both the sellers and buyers need to be assured that the selling agent is appropriately trained and qualified,” she said.
Victor Sankey agreed. “Commercial agents require more skills and qualifications than residential property agents because this area of work is much more diverse and complex. The legislative complexities in the commercial sector are extensive and the personal indemnity risks to agents are huge.”
Mr Sankey said that insurers are insisting commercial agents have more skills these days in order to get cover and that reducing qualification requirements would be disastrous for the industry and the public.
The COAG Taskforce information sessions have also covered proposed national licensing for electricians, plumbers, gasfitters and air conditioning. Feedback from the sessions has been supportive of proposed licensing changes for electricians, plumbers and gasfitters, but not so for real estate agents and air conditioning.
Mr Sankey said including the real estate profession with a range of trades was a mistake and should be removed from the COAG plan.
“You cannot compare the working environment and legislative regime of a real estate agent with a plumber and then expect a national licensing scheme to apply uniformly across these industries. They are chalk and cheese,” Mr Sankey said.