Real estate agents, salespersons and branch managers in the Western division undertook a national consultation workshop in Nadi this week for input on a final draft of proposed changes to real estate agent’s regulations.
Realtors had earlier received copies of the document from the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board, which hopes to soon finalize the regulations ahead of their enactment.
The regulations include Codes Governing Professional Practise, Ethics & Conduct, Regulation of Real Estate Agency Work, Prescribed Real Estate Agency Agreements and Continuing Professional Development.
The workshop included several notable speakers from the Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit, Fiji Revenue & Customs Services, Fijian Competition & Consumer Commission, Consumer Council of Fiji, Department of Immigration, Investment Fiji, Fiji Police Force and Ministry of Lands & Mineral Resources.
Key issues also centered on agent commissions, and whether this should have a standardized percentage or be self-regulated.
“We have put in certain proposals with suggestions from agents on whether to regulate or not,” said REALB chairman, Dr Abdul Hassan.
“We have looked at how other countries regulate agent commission issues and it’s not that easy. We need to look at some ways or come up with some kind of formula on if commission should be regulated etc.”
Consumer Council officer, James Vakacabeqoli said advertising regulations for real estate needed to be strengthened, to ensure that ads fully disclosed property details, alongside measures to prevent the manipulation of market prices by agents.
“One of the biggest issues we face is the non-disclosure of property details, with some consumers unaware of exactly how many years they have left on a leasing term until the last minute,” he said.
“We also receive a lot of complaints on the failure of landlords to refund bond and to provide tenancy agreements or to have tenancy agreements that comply with guidelines set out by the FCCC. There are also a lot of complaints on delays in property settlements, failure by landlords or caretakers to carry out maintenance work, agents pressuring vendors to sell, unlicensed agents and untrained agents.”
Realtors also called on the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services to provide more public awareness on Capital Gains Tax to consumers, noting that it was sometimes difficult to explain CGT application to vendors, such as for inherited properties.
Discussion also centered on the legal obligation of agents and salespersons to have thorough knowledge of the intricate regulations pertaining to real estate set out by various authorities. Realtors said that despite the engagement of solicitors for Sale & Purchase agreements, agents were still blamed and penalized if property deals failed.
REALB member, architect Hemant Kumar challenged agents with establishing what the bare minimum of their legal obligation was to know certain facts, such as zoning, and other facets pertaining to their services.
The workshop had a considerable turnout of registered realty personnel, including a team from Inglewood Realtors, which has recently resumed operations.
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