Real estate salespersons (RES) and estate agents (EA) who have committed any disciplinary breaches1 may be subject to disciplinary action by CEA under the Letter of Censure (LOC) disciplinary regime or proceedings before a CEA Disciplinary Committee (DC).
1 This refers to breaches of the Estate Agents Act or its subsidiary legislation that are not statutory offences e.g. breaches of the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care or the Code of Practice, or breaches of the Estate Agents (Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism) Regulations 2021.
Generally, CEA will refer serious disciplinary breaches to the DC while less serious disciplinary breaches may be dealt with through the LOC disciplinary regime.
CEA Disciplinary Committee (DC)
A DC comprises at least 3 persons, who are nominated from the CEA Disciplinary Panel comprising practising 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 DC member, he should immediately lodge his objection with the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel.
The DC may take the following actions, as the case may be, after a disciplinary hearing:
- Revoke or suspend a registration or licence.
- Attach or vary conditions to a registration or licence.
- Impose a financial penalty not exceeding $100,000 (per case) against RESs and not exceeding $200,000 (per case) against EAs.
- Admonish or reprimand the RES or EA in writing.
Note: The maximum financial penalties were increased from a limit of $75,000 (for both RESs and EAs) following the operationalisation of the Estate Agents (Amendment) Act 2020 on 30 July 2021. The increased maximum financial penalties will apply to cases referred to the DC on or after 30 July 2021.
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 on the Respondent's behalf. The proceedings are not open to the public.
Procedure for disciplinary proceedings
Commencement of disciplinary proceedings and filing of documents
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 RES, the Key Executive Officer of his EA 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 with the Secretary.
The Respondent files an Admission if he wishes to admit to the Charge against him. If he wishes to dispute the Charge against him, a Defence may be filed.
Where 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. Such disclosure is not an offence only if it falls within the exemptions provided at Regulation 17(2) of the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations.
Pre-Hearing Conference, Hearing and Trial
The DC may issue directions in respect of a trial2 or hearing3. This may be done by calling for a Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC).
2 Where the Respondent disputes the Charge, a trial will be fixed for the DC to hear the evidence involved in the case (e.g. through witnesses called to the proceedings) and determine the Respondent’s liability. If the DC determines that the Respondent is liable, the DC will convict him or her of the Charge. The matter will then be scheduled for a hearing to determine the penalties that the DC should impose, following the Respondent’s conviction.
3 Where the Respondent admits to the Charge, there is no need for a trial to be fixed. Instead, a hearing will be fixed for the DC to determine the penalties that should be imposed on the Respondent.
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 number and qualification of the interpreter shall be notified in writing as soon as practicable to the Secretary to the Disciplinary Panel, and in any event not later than 14 days after the first PHC or issuance of any pre-hearing directions.
The Respondent will be notified of the hearing or trial date(s). Following the hearing or trial, the DC will make orders or impose penalties as it considers appropriate. If a Respondent is dissatisfied with a DC’s decision, the Respondent may file an appeal to the Ministry of National Development’s Appeals Board, within 14 days of being notified of the DC’s decision.
If any order is made against the Respondent, the DC may also order him to pay fixed costs to CEA. CEA will seek costs based on the 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.
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 is guilty of the Charge but is contesting other facts which would affect the penalties to be imposed by the DC. Where the Respondent denies that he committed the Charge, a trial will be 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. CEA will seek costs of $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. CEA will seek costs of $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, following which the Respondent was convicted and the DC ordered for penalties to be imposed on the Respondent. CEA will seek costs of $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, following which the Respondent was convicted and the DC ordered for penalties to be imposed on the Respondent. CEA will seek costs of $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 DC's decision, including any penalties and costs imposed.
Financial penalties and costs decided by the DC 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 the 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 the Disciplinary Panel".
Council for Estate Agencies
480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
#13-01 HDB Hub East Wing
Further information on the disciplinary proceedings before the DC may be found in the Estate Agents (Disciplinary Proceedings) Regulations and Estate Agents Act.
You may also refer to CEA's Regulatory and Enforcement Guide which provides an overview on CEA's regulatory framework, including proceedings before the DC.