Estate agents and salespersons who are guilty of unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct, or have breached the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care or the Code of Practice set out in the First and Second Schedules respectively of the Estate Agents (Estate Agency Work) Regulations may be subject to disciplinary action before a Disciplinary Committee. The procedures and rules that apply to the disciplinary proceedings are set out in the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations.
The Disciplinary Committee may take the following actions, as the case may be, after a disciplinary hearing:
a) revoke a licence or registration
b) suspend a licence or registration
c) impose a financial penalty not exceeding $75,000
d) admonish or reprimand the licensee or registered salesperson
e) attach or vary conditions to a licence or registration
Parliament has passed the Estate Agents (Amendment) Bill
on 5 May 2020. The EAA amendments aim to:
- Align Singapore’s levers against money laundering and terrorism financing with international standards.
- Enhance productivity in taking timely disciplinary actions against errant estate agents and salespersons.
- Update the regulatory framework to enable CEA to respond more efficiently to industry stakeholders in a changing operating environment.
When the amendments to the Estate Agents Act come into effect:
1. Financial penalties imposed by the Disciplinary Committee will increase from $75,000 to $200,000 per case for errant estate agents and $100,000 per case for salespersons.
2. For less serious breaches, CEA may impose financial penalties of up to $5,000 per case and/or censure the errant estate agent and salesperson instead of referring the case to the Disciplinary Committee.
CEA will inform the estate agency industry when the amendments take effect.
A Disciplinary Committee comprises at least 3 persons, who are nominated from CEA's disciplinary panel comprising practicing solicitors, architects, engineers or individuals from the real estate industry amongst others.
If a Respondent in a disciplinary case objects to the appointment of any Disciplinary Committee Member, he should immediately lodge his objection with the Secretary to Disciplinary Panel.
A Respondent to disciplinary proceedings may be represented by a solicitor. If the Respondent has instructed a solicitor to represent him, the solicitor shall lodge or receive the necessary disciplinary proceedings documents. The proceedings are not open to the public.
Disciplinary Proceedings Procedure
CEA may commence disciplinary proceedings against a Respondent by lodging a Charge and Statement of Case with the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel.
The Secretary will then arrange for the Respondent to be served with the Charge and Statement of Case. If the Respondent is a salesperson, the Key Executive Officer of his Estate Agent will be notified of the proceedings.
A Respondent may upon service of the Charge and Statement of Case within the next 14 days either:
a) File a Defence with the Secretary; or
b) File an Admission to the Charge(s) with the Secretary.
If the Respondent does not admit to the Charge or files a Defence, the Disciplinary Committee may consider the Charge and Statement of Case as not denied.
After the Respondent files a Defence with the Secretary, CEA may within the next 14 days file a Reply with the Secretary, who will then serve the Reply upon the Respondent. If CEA files a Reply, the Respondent may file a Rejoinder within the 14 days of service of the Reply.
The Respondent shall state the material facts that he relies upon in the Defence or Rejoinder (if any); and may also attach to the Defence or Rejoinder the documents that he wishes to rely upon.
Note: It is an offence under the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations to disclose any information, document or evidence filed or produced in connection with disciplinary proceedings, to any other person, knowing that the information, document or evidence was filed or produced in connection with such proceedings. The disclosure is not an offence only if it falls within the exemptions provided at Reg 17(2) of the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations.
Pre-Hearing Conference and Hearing
The Disciplinary Committee may issue directions in respect of the hearing. This may be done by calling for a Pre-hearing Conference.
If the Respondent requires an interpreter, he shall arrange for a properly qualified interpreter to be present at the hearing at his own cost. The name, business address, email address, contact numer and qualification of the interpreter shall be notified in writing as soon as practicable to the Secretary, and in any event not later than 14 days after the first Pre-hearing Conference or issuance of the pre-hearing directions.
The Respondent will be notified of the hearing date.
If any order is made against the Respondent, the Disciplinary Committee may also order him to pay the Council the following costs based on the cost framework1 as shown in the table below:
|Base cost (Applies to all cases) ||Variable cost for pre-hearing conference and trial (in addition to base cost) |
|Pre-hearing conference (PHC) cost ||Trial cost |
|Uncontested case || $2,000 ||$2,000 per PHC or part thereof (from the 2nd PHC onwards). ||Not applicable. |
|Contested case2 || $2,000 ||$2,000 per PHC or part thereof (from the 3rd PHC onwards). ||$3,000 per day of trial or Newton hearing, or part thereof. |
1. This framework applies for all cases filed on or after 21 February 2020. For cases filed before 21 Feb 2020, the amount of cost that can be ordered by the DC is still fixed at $1,000.
2. The matter will be considered a contested case where there is a trial or a Newton hearing. A Newton hearing is a trial-type procedure which is conducted where the Respondent does not deny that he committed the breach but is contesting other facts that CEA is relying on which would affect the penalties to be imposed by the DC. Where the Respondent denies that he committed the breach, a trial is conducted instead. An uncontested matter does not involve a Newton hearing or a trial.
Example 1 (Uncontested case)
An admission was filed by the Respondent and either one or no PHC was conducted. The DC ordered for penalties to be imposed on the Respondent. The cost that will be imposed is $2,000.
Example 2 (Uncontested case)
The Respondent informed the DC that he intended to claim trial. Two PHCs were conducted for directions to be given for trial and other administrative matters. After the PHCs, the Respondent decided to admit to the charges. Hence, no trial was conducted. The DC ordered for penalties to be imposed on the Respondent. The cost that will be imposed is $4,000 comprising $2,000 base cost and $2,000 PHC cost (for the 2nd PHC).
Example 3 (Contested case)
The Respondent informed the DC that he intends to claim trial.
a) One PHC was conducted for directions to be given by the DC for trial. After the PHC, 2 days of trial took place. The cost that will be imposed is $8,000 comprising $2,000 base cost, $3,000 trial cost (1st day) and $3,000 trial cost (2nd day).
b) Three PHCs were conducted for directions to be given by the DC for trial. After the PHCs, 2 days of trial took place. The cost that will be imposed is $10,000 comprising $2,000 base cost, $2,000 PHC cost (for the 3rd PHC), $3,000 trial cost (1st day) and $3,000 trial cost (2nd day).
The Respondent will be informed of the Disciplinary Committee's decision, including any penalties and costs imposed.
Fines and costs decided by the Disciplinary Committee may be paid by submitting a crossed account payee cheque drawn in favor of the "Council for Estate Agencies". The following should be written at the back of the cheque:
(i) "Attn: Secretary to Disciplinary Panel"
(ii) Disciplinary Case number
Lodgement of documents with the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel
Documents may be lodged with the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel by leaving the Original together with 5 copies (i.e. in total a set of 6 per document) at the following address, for the Attention of "Secretary to Disciplinary Panel".
Council for Estate Agencies
480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
#13-01 HDB Hub East Wing
Further information on the disciplinary proceedings may be found in the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations and Estate Agents Act.