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CEA’s Disciplinary Process Explained

CEA recently made two administrative improvements to its disciplinary process. The first is providing an explanatory letter to property agencies or agents when CEA serves charges on them. Second, CEA has introduced a new documents-based disciplinary process for selected cases.

Here’s an overview of the disciplinary process and where the improvements fit in.

Who gets disciplined?

CEA may commence disciplinary proceedings against property agencies and agents (known as Respondents) who may have:

  • been guilty of unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct;
  • breached the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care and the Code of Practice for Estate Agents; or
  • breached any order of a Disciplinary Committee or Appeals Board.

CEA initiates disciplinary proceedings only after careful review of evidence from enquiries and investigations.

If a case does not warrant the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, CEA may instead issue a letter of advice / reminder to property agencies or agents.

Property agencies and agents involved in disciplinary proceedings should take steps to fully understand the disciplinary process and the implication of any decisions made and action taken by them. They should also seek advice from their KEOs and/or lawyers.

Who hears the cases?

A Disciplinary Committee (DC) hears these cases. A DC comprises at least three persons who are appointed from CEA’s Disciplinary Panel. The Panel consists of practising individuals from the real estate industry, lawyers, architects and engineers. The DC ensures that the disciplinary proceedings are carried out fairly and in accordance with the law.  

What is the process like?

CEA will first lodge a Charge and Statement of Case with the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel.

The Secretary will then arrange for Respondents to receive the Charge and Statement of Case documents. If the Respondent is a property agent, his/her Key Executive Officer will be notified as well.

CEA has enhanced the process to provide an explanatory letter to Respondents when the Charge(s) and Statement of Case are presented to them. The letter helps Respondents decide if they should admit to or contest the Charge(s). The letter states:

  • Charge(s) that CEA will proceed upon and the sentence(s) sought by CEA if the Respondent were to plead guilty at the pre-trial stage. The sentence(s) proposed is only valid for a limited time from the date of the letter;
  • References to specific precedent cases where relevant;
  • What Respondents should do if they wish to plead guilty to the Charge(s); and
  • What Respondents should do if they believe they are innocent of the Charge(s).

From 1 October 2016, CEA has implemented a new documents-based disciplinary process (DBDP) for selected cases where only a small financial penalty is involved.

Under the new DBDP, if Respondents decide to plead guilty, they can choose not to appear before the DC. Respondents are to indicate their preference via a Response Form that is attached to the explanatory letter.

If the DC agrees that the Respondent does not need to appear before them, the DC will then consider the Respondent’s plea-in-mitigation and CEA’s submissions on the sentence. CEA’s submissions will be based on the indicative sentences stated in the explanatory letter to the Respondent. The DC will then decide on the Respondent’s sentencing.

What do I need to do when I receive a Charge and Statement of Case?

Within 14 days of receiving the Charge(s) and Statement of Case, Respondents must decide whether they want to admit to or contest the charge.

If Respondents decide to admit to the charge If Respondents decide to attend the hearings or contest the charges
  • Within 14 days of receiving the explanatory letter, Respondents must:
    • Submit the Notice of Admission to the Disciplinary Committee
    • Submit and indicate in the Response Form if they wish to attend before the DC
  • Within 14 days of submitting the Notice of Admission, Respondents must submit their mitigation plea
  • Usual disciplinary proceeding procedures will take place
  • Respondents can decide if they wish to be represented by a lawyer. If Respondents have instructed a lawyer to represent them, the lawyer shall lodge or receive the necessary disciplinary proceedings documents
  • The proceedings are not open to the public

If the Respondent proceeds to contest the Charge(s) and is subsequently found to be guilty of the Charge(s) by the Disciplinary Committee after a trial, the CEA may seek a heavier sentence than what was proposed in the explanatory letter.

We have drawn up a flow chart to illustrate the process: