Unlicensed real estate agency work is an offence under the Estate Agents Act
A 43-year-old Singaporean woman was convicted in Court today for two charges of holding herself out to the public as being ready to undertake estate agency work as an estate agent and acting as an estate agent without being licensed by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) in relation to two room rental transactions of Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats.
Vanessa Thien Cai Yan was sentenced to a fine totalling $15,000, in default two months’ imprisonment. In sentencing Thien, the Court also took into account two similar charges of Thien holding herself out to the public as being ready to undertake estate agency work as an estate agent without being licensed by CEA.
Under the Estate Agents Act (EAA), it is an offence for entities and/or individuals to act as estate agents, or for individuals to hold themselves out to the public as being ready to undertake, whether or not for payment or other remuneration, estate agency work as estate agents in any property transactions if they are not licensed by 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.
Thien pleads guilty to charges of unlicensed real estate agency work
Thien pleaded guilty and was convicted in Court under the EAA for the following two charges:
- One charge under Section 28(1)(c) of the EAA, for holding herself out as being ready to undertake, whether or not for payment or other remuneration (whether monetary or otherwise), estate agency work as an estate agent without first being licensed by CEA; and
- One charge under Section 28(1)(b) of the EAA, for acting as an estate agent without first being licensed by CEA.
Investigations revealed that Thien had represented herself as a part-time property agent to family members of an owner of a HDB flat at Punggol. Thien had contacted the owner’s family member through the latter’s listing of a room rental on Carousell, an online portal.
Thien was looking to charge the owner 25 per cent of one month’s rental as commission if she closed the transaction. The owner’s family member agreed to engage Thien on this basis. Thien then assisted the landlord in marketing the lease of the common room in her flat on Facebook and by conducting a viewing of the flat.
It was also revealed that sometime around the period between November 2017 and December 2017, Thien assisted another landlord to rent out a room at a second HDB flat at Sengkang. She had advertised the rental of the room on Facebook, introduced a tenant to the landlord, facilitated the lease of the property, and received a commission of S$137.50 from the landlord. At all material times, Thien was not an estate agent licensed by the CEA.
In sentencing Thien, the court took into account two other similar charges of Thien holding herself out to the public as being ready to undertake estate agency work as an estate agent without being licensed by CEA. One of the charges was in relation to the room rental transaction of a HDB flat at Punggol. Thien engaged in unlicensed real estate agency work and conducted the viewing for a prospective tenant and her friend.
In another charge, Thien contacted a property agent on 2 October 2017 and introduced herself as a part-time agent. She was looking to co-broke with him on a room rental transaction of a third HDB flat at Punggol that he had advertised on Carousell. In her messages, Thien asked to share 50 per cent of the commission that he would receive from his clients upon closing the transaction.
CEA cautions individuals and entities against conducting unlicensed real estate agency work and using online property portals to facilitate such work by advertising properties for sale or lease if they are not licensed by CEA.
Consumers who choose to have a property agent assist them in their property transactions should only engage property agencies and agents licensed and registered with CEA respectively. The public can verify whether an entity or individual is licensed or registered with CEA via the Public Register on the CEA website.
When consumers respond to online advertisements, they should check whether they are liaising with the property owner directly or with a property agent who is representing the owner. If it is the latter, consumers should check that the agent is registered with CEA. A property agent is required to display his registration number in his online advertisements. Consumers should exercise caution if a registration number is not displayed.
The public can report those who perform unlicensed real estate agency work to CEA.
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