MAR / APR 2016

Unregistered property agent fined

Tan Hock Khin was fined $11,000 (in default eight weeks' imprisonment) on 17 February 2016 for wrongfully presenting himself as a registered property agent in an online property advertisement, and for failing to provide information and documents to CEA for its investigations on suspected offences under the Estate Agents Act.

Tan Hock Khin pleaded guilty to two charges filed against him by the CEA, and another two charges were taken into consideration for sentencing purposes. He is also currently serving a five-month imprisonment sentence for providing false information to the authorities that a CEA inspector had tried to get a bribe from him during investigations.

CEA was first alerted about Tan's actions in 2011 when we received feedback regarding his conduct. A member of public had contacted Tan in response to his advertisement and he had acted in an unprofessional manner. She alleged that Tan had ended her call abruptly and had used expletives on her when she called him again.

Investigations revealed that Tan had put up numerous advertisements on various websites to lease properties. Checks also showed that as Tan was not a registered agent with the CEA, and the telephone number reflected in his advertisements was not registered with the CEA. In the advertisement described in the charge he pleaded guilty to, Tan had described himself as an "Assistant Sales Manager" of Innovative Housing Agency, then a licensed property agency with CEA. However, Innovative Housing Agency did not engage Tan as its agent.

CEA had filed charges against Tan in September 2012 including two charges for holding himself out as a registered property agent although he was not one, and for carrying out estate agency work without first getting a written agreement from a licensed property agency for him to act as a registered agent for the agency.

Tan also faced a charge for impeding CEA inspectors from lawfully carrying out their investigation during a field operation, and for hindering their efforts to gather evidence of the suspected Estate Agents Act offences against him by not allowing them entry to the premises. He faced two additional charges for neglecting to provide the required information and documents despite receiving two written notices from CEA. Tan was convicted of the charge for impeding CEA inspectors from lawfully gathering evidence of his offences and was fined $6,000 in March 2014.

Apart from the above charges filed against him by CEA, Tan was also charged by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in August 2012 with four charges for providing false information to the authorities - once to the Police and thrice to the CPIB.

Tan had alleged that while inspecting an apartment managed by him as part of investigations, a CEA inspector had tried to get a bribe from him in return for closing the case. CPIB's investigations revealed that Tan's statements were false and he was convicted of four offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) in March 2014 and was sentenced to five months' imprisonment for the PCA offences. He started serving the sentence on 11 January 2016.

To regulate and professionalise the real estate agency industry, as well as to safeguard consumers' interests in property transactions, CEA has established a regulatory framework that includes a licensing regime for property agencies and a registration protocol for property agents. This means that all businesses and individuals are required to be licensed and registered respectively by CEA in order to conduct estate agency work in Singapore. It is an offence for a person to perform or accept fees for estate agency work without being registered with CEA through a licensed property agency.

The duties, business activities and conduct of property agencies and agents are fully governed by the Estate Agents Act and Regulations, which include the Code of Practice and the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care. In addition, a Professional Service Manual has also been developed to provide a service standard benchmark for the industry.

Consumers should check the CEA Public Register of Estate Agents and Salespersons* to ensure that the property agencies and agents they are engaging are licensed and registered respectively. The Public Register can also be assessed via the CEA@SG mobile app which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.


* Under the Estate Agents Act 2010, "Estate Agents" refer to estate agency businesses (sole-proprietors, partnerships, and companies). Estate Agents are commonly known as property agencies. "Salespersons" refer to individuals who perform estate agency work. They are commonly known as property agents.

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