Khelvin Realtors founder and CEO, Vyas Deo Sharma has been elected President of the Real Estate Association of Fiji.
The new Vice Presidents are Sakeo Lelekilagi (Golden Water Real Estate), CJ Shergill (LJ Hooker) and Aren Nunnink (Ki-Maren Real Estate), respectively from the Central, Western and Northern divisions.
Anand Gounder (IROK) was voted in as General-Secretary, with the post of Assistant General-Secretary going to Shashi Prasad (Jet Set) and Romil Prakash (Excellent Realtors) as Treasurer.
Committee members are Sam Mani (Paradise Realtors), Sohan Lal and Mohammed Ahmed.
The elections were held at the Association’s first annual general meeting in Martintar, Nadi on July 2 and included votes by proxy, with about 30 agents and salespersons in attendance, alongside counsels from Neel Shivam Lawyers.
“We want to ensure that our Constitution is in place – that is one of our first priorities, now that we have elected office-bearers,” said Sharma, who acted in an interim capacity until his official election as head of the Association.
“We will also see what short-comings there are – if any- and amend our Constitution accordingly. It’s also important that we draw full membership from all licensed agents and salespersons in the country, for the association.
“Our divisional representatives will be meeting with agents and together send across their grievances to submit to authorities.”
The Association has been a welcome formation to better represent the needs of agents, who prior to an established union, individually lodged complaints with industry watchdogs, the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board.
As Sharma noted, the Association would also be a conduit to resolve issues internally and provide a platform for better dialogue amongst industry practitioners.
Their grievances have largely centred on the infiltration of unlicensed and foreign agents carrying out transactions and offshore sales of local properties.
“Unscrupulous dealers and bogus agents are a constant issue, because it is only licensed agents and salespersons who would have the competence and practical know-how on selling properties on behalf of clients,” Sharma said.
“Foreign agents in particular can come into the country without work visas and make deals, organize paperwork and transact properties that include islands offshore, and divide their profits once they return overseas. This takes away work from local agents and any revenue that is supposed to be made here. So, we look forward to working with the appropriate departments and hope that more compliance staff will be provided by the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, Fiji Police Force, REALB and other relevant stakeholders.”
The Real Estate Association also hopes for internal training programs to better equip and upskill agents and professional standards, alongside efforts by the REALB.
Sharma confirmed that a Code of Ethics was also underway.
The Association’s AGM was opened by the Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Land and Mineral Resources, Faiyaz Koya, who noted the rising demand for housing, particularly in major urban centres.
“For this reason, various policy changes have been undertaken to ensure that affordable residential properties are available to ordinary Fijians,” he said, citing the Government’s First Home Owners Scheme, which received a boost in its new fiscal budget announcement.
The scheme encourages home ownership for individuals or couples with an annual or joint annual income not exceeding $50,000.
“Also in the 2017-2018 National Budget, the Reserve Bank of Fiji in conjunction with the Fijian Government, have increased funding for affordable homes from $25 million to $60 million. This again an indication of how true the Government is, towards providing the best for all Fijians.”
Stamp duties on non-residents transfer of strata titles has also been increased.
Koya reminded agents that while the Government had taken steps to avail more affordable housing for locals, it was their duty as real estate agents to work within legal ambits and ensure their industry was clean of unscrupulous dealers.
“As the Minister responsible for consumer protection, I would like to see all stakeholders in the real estate industry working together, familiar with the rules and procedures pertaining to property transactions and ensuring that consumers’ rights are protected.
“The Ministry aims to transform the industry into one that is respected and well regarded. However, we cannot achieve this alone – it has to be a collective effort between real estate agents, salespersons, the regulating agencies and of course the consumers themselves – everyone has a part to play in this journey,” Koya highlighted.
A draft Residential Tenancy Bill is also still with the Solicitor-General’s Office, and aims to provide protection for both landlords and tenants by prescribing the rights and responsibilities of each party.
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