Jonathan Chancellor | 20 November 2012

National licensing of estate agents debate flares again within industry

The tussle over the national licensing of real estate agents shows no signs of abatement with an escalation in press release issuance.

Milton Cockburn at The Shopping Centre Council recently told the association's members that commercial real estate agents will be licensed except for those managing on behalf of related entities, like Westfield Group’s leasing agents, and those acting for “sophisticated property owners.”

It's what the council wanted. 

Cockburn advised that a special committee established by the National Occupational Licensing Authority (NOLA), representing all stakeholders, unanimously agreed that commercial agency work will be included in the new national licence for real estate agents, subject to two exceptions.

"The first exception is that agents managing on behalf of ‘related entities’ would not require a licence; the second exception is that ‘sophisticated property owners’, that is those large owners who fully understand the risks involved in commercial property transactions, would also not be required to use a licensed agent.

"This means only a very small fraction of commercial transactions could be undertaken by unlicensed agents, and all transactions involving ‘small’ commercial property owners would involve licensed agents.

"The committee also resolved concerns about personal probity requirements for licensees.

"There should therefore now be no obstacles to introducing the national real estate licence," Cockburn wrote on Property Observer.

But the Real Estate Institute of Australia president Pam Bennett says some areas remain to be negotiated, with the REIA unwilling to "lower standards".

The REIA suggested contrary to recent reports, the National licensing debate is not resolved.

But some industry analsyts say some 80% of agents currently just have the so-called "lower" standard.

"There are a number of areas still to be negotiated, and REIA will not be pushed into a lowering of standards that will have a negative affect on Australian consumers. Full stop,” Bennett says.

"Stunningly poor analysis of our profession was undertaken before COAG made these proposals and the Occupational Licensing Advisory Committee (OLAC) was a flawed process."

"There’s clearly been a pre-ordained conclusion from the start. When the regulation impact statement (RIS) was released, OLAC was scheduled to meet the very next business day and did not even read REIA’s RIS response, which stated our numerous concerns."

"The RIS made no attempt to quantify the cost to consumers flowing from the proposed removal of commercial property licensing and the abolition of continued professional development (CPD)," Ms Bennett added.

"There is a variety of roles that must be undertaken by real estate agents and the RIS set the education bar far too low. We want to see agents with diploma level qualifications as is the case in four States and Territories – not a dumbed down compromise."

"We refuse to be pushed into a position that would be detrimental to consumers, in order to suit arbitrary timelines."

"REIA wants the status quo option for property industry licensing to allow a revision of the RIS and because REIA supports national licensing, subsequent reconsideration through the second tranche, which contains other property related professions such as valuation, conveyancing, building and surveying."


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