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Former agent fined for unregistered estate agency work

It is an offence under the Estate Agents Act for unregistered individuals to impersonate as property agents in any property transaction.

In this issue of CEAnergy, we highlight the importance of how individuals can conduct estate agency work only when they are registered with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).

In January this year, a former property agent was convicted in Court for seven charges of holding himself out to the public as being a property agent without being registered with the CEA.

See Toh Kok Yew, 57, was a former agent with Dennis Wee Realty Pte Ltd (DWR). He did not renew his registration as a property agent for 2016 as he had owed Medisave arrears to the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB). It is a requirement for property agents to contribute to their CPF Medisave accounts in order to be eligible for renewal of their registration. See Toh was thus no longer a property agent starting from 1 January 2016.

In early January 2016, CEA received a tip-off that See Toh had conducted viewings for two groups of potential tenants at a private property on 9 January 2016. Investigations revealed that See Toh had reposted advertisements on two online property portals to market the sale of six private residential properties and one commercial property in Singapore from 1 January to 10 January 2016.

See Toh had first posted the seven advertisements between June and December 2015 when he was still a registered agent. Between 1 January 2016 and 10 January 2016, See Toh logged in to one of the property portals to repost the seven advertisement listings multiple times.

In all the advertisements, See Toh held himself out as a registered property agent from DWR even though he was no longer one. The advertisements included his name, mobile number, previous CEA registration number, DWR’s CEA licence number, and DWR’s logo.

During the same period, See Toh also posted nine similar advertisements on a property portal to market the sale and rental of nine other private residential and commercial properties.

The property portal suspended See Toh’s account on 11 January 2016 after they were informed that he was not a registered agent. The advertisements See Toh reposted were subsequently removed from the portal.

By reposting the seven property advertisements, See Toh had held himself out as a registered property agent without being registered. He was sentenced to a total financial penalty of $56,000, in default 21 weeks’ imprisonment.

The Court took into account 25 charges when sentencing See Toh. Of the 25 charges, nine were similar charges of conducting estate agency work without being registered by CEA, while 16 were of See Toh holding himself out as a property agent of a property agency without a written agreement with the agency.

Learning points

It is an offence under the Estate Agents Act for entities and/or individuals to act or hold themselves out as property agencies and/or agents in any property transaction if they are not licensed or registered with the CEA.

Here’s what See Toh should have done:

  • Paid up the Medisave arrears owed to CPFB so that he would be eligible for the renewal of his registration.

    Under Section 3(1) of the Central Provident Fund (Self-Employed Persons) Regulations, self-employed persons who earn a yearly income of more than $6,000 a year are required to contribute to their CPF Medisave account for their healthcare and retirement needs. Compliance with CPFB’s Medisave contributions is a requirement for the renewal of agents’ registrations and agencies' licences.

    Property agencies will not be able to apply for renewal or auto-renewal of an agent’s registration if the agent is in arrears of CPF Medisave contributions and does not have an active GIRO instalment plan with the CPFB.

  • Cease the conduct of estate agency work once his registration had expired.

    See Toh should have informed his Key Executive Officer of the clients and transactions he was currently serving and handling. The agency could have then arranged for him to hand over his current projects to other agents. Also, See Toh should have informed his clients that he could no longer help them with their property transactions and advise them on which property agents they could have signed new estate agreements with.

What property agents should note:

Before you work with or co-broke with another property agent in a property transaction, you should check against CEA’s Public Register to ensure that the agent you are working with has a valid registration. If he does not have a valid registration, you should flag the individual to CEA immediately.