An unregistered property agent was convicted in Court on April 3 for nine charges of holding himself out to the public as being a property agent without being registered as such with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA). Lim Ruiwen, 31, had posted nine advertisements for the rental of HDB and private properties on publicly accessible online property portals between January and March 2017, despite being unregistered.
The unregistered property agent was sentenced to a fine totalling $72,000, in default of 27 weeks’ imprisonment.
In sentencing Lim, the Court also took into consideration 43 other similar charges of Lim holding out as a property agent to the public when he was an unregistered property agent. Under the Estate Agents Act (EAA), it is an offence for entities and/or individuals to act or hold out as estate agents and/or salespersons in any property transaction if they are not licensed or registered with the CEA.
Under the Estate Agents Act (Cap. 95A), “estate agents” refer to estate agency businesses (sole proprietors, partnerships, and companies) or individuals who do estate agency work. Estate agency businesses are commonly known as property agencies. “Salespersons” refer to individuals who perform estate agency work. They are commonly known as property agents.
CEA’s charges against Lim Ruiwen
The unregistered property agent pleaded guilty and was convicted in Court for a total of nine charges under Section 29(1)(a) of the EAA for holding himself out to the public as a salesperson for Global Alliance Property Pte Ltd, without being registered as a salesperson.
Lim was a former agent since January 2011, and was most recently with Global Alliance between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2016. Lim’s registration expired after 31 December 2016 as he did not submit an application to CEA through a property agency to renew his registration as a property agent for 2017. He was also terminated by Global Alliance after 31 December 2016. He was therefore no longer a registered agent after 31 December 2016.
Under the Estate Agents Act (Cap. 95A), property agencies are required to renew their licence and agents are required to renew their registration through a property agency in the current year in order to carry out estate agency work in the following year.
Lim’s nine charges were in relation to advertisements that he had posted online. Investigations revealed that between January 2017 and March 2017, Lim had posted nine advertisements, each advertising a different HDB or private property for rent, on an online property portal.
In all the advertisements, Lim held himself out as a registered agent of Global Alliance when he was not. The advertisements included his name, photograph, mobile number, previous CEA registration number, as well as Global Alliance’s name and CEA licence number.
In sentencing the unregistered property agent, the Court took into consideration 43 other similar charges of Lim holding himself out as a property agent without being registered when he posted 43 advertisements on other publicly accessible property portals to advertise the lease of 43 other HDB and private properties.
The punishment for an offence under Section 29(1)(a) of the EAA is a fine not exceeding $25,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.
Advice to consumers
Consumers who choose to have a property agent to assist them in their property transactions should only engage property agencies and agents who are licensed and registered with the CEA respectively. The public can verify whether an entity or individual is licensed or registered with the CEA via the Public Register on the CEA website. CEA said the public should report those who perform unlicensed estate agency work or are unregistered property agents to the statutory board.
CEA is a statutory board established in 2010 under the Estate Agents Act to regulate and promote the development of a professional and trusted real estate agency industry. The key responsibilities of the CEA are to license property agencies and register property agents, promote the integrity and competence of property agencies and property agents, and equip consumers with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions in property transactions involving property agents.
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