Buying and managing property is a high stakes business. State governments Australia-wide have licensing laws to ensure that those who advertise themselves as a real estate agent are qualified to do so. Below, we look at the key pieces of legislation in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales designed to ensure real estate agents don’t deceive a property buyer or seller or mishandle their assets.
When you choose a real estate agent to manage the sale or rental of your property, you should ask yourself:
- What are their qualifications?
- How long have they been operating in the industry?
- Do they know the area well?
Cover the basics first and check that your real estate agent is licensed, using the Queensland Government’s licence checking service.
A real estate agent in Queensland must be licensed under the Property Occupations Act 2014 (Qld). A person can hold an auctioneers licence, a real estate agent’s licence, or a resident letting agent’s licence. Checking that the agent has a valid licence is the most important step.
The Property Occupations Act outlines a number of rules that licenced real estate agents must follow, including that they must not calculate commission worked out on an amount more than the actual sale price of the property (section 88(2) Property Occupations Act).
If a real estate agent is working without a licence, they can be fined $23,560 or face two years in prison.
In Victoria, you can check that your real estate agent is licensed by checking the Business Licensing Authority.
A licensed real estate agent must fully understand their legal obligations under the Estate Agents Act 1980 (Vic), Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) and the Sale of Land Act 1962 (Vic).
Under the Estate Agents Act, estate agents must not:
- Hold themselves out as a real estate agent, unless they are licensed (section 12);
- Market a property for sale at a lower price than their estimated selling price (underquoting) (section 47C(2));
- Purchase or indirectly benefit from the purchase of any real estate they are engaged in selling (section 55(1), (2)).
A real estate agent cannot under the Residential Tenancies Act:
- Obtain a tenant’s signature on a bond application form unless the amount of the bond that is to be refunded sets out the distribution of funds between landlord and tenant on the form (section 412); and
- Under the Sale of Land Act, estate agents must ensure the due diligence checklist is in the form approved by the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria (section 33B(5)).
New South Wales
The rules and regulations applying to real estate agents in New South Wales impose similar regulations to those in Queensland and Victoria. The Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 (NSW) outlines the rules which apply. Anyone who wishes to carry on business as a real estate agent, stock and station agent, business agent, strata/community managing agent or on-site residential property manager must have a licence under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act. Check that your real estate agent has a valid licence with New South Wales Fair Trading, here.
Good real estate agents should be well-versed on the suburb or area you at looking at, the ups and downs of the market and should help you look into strategies that will assist with achieving a good price for your home – regardless of whether you are selling or buying.
While these informal qualifications go miles to help you feel like you are in safe hands and can be deciding factors when making a decision about who to have as your real estate agent, make sure you cover the basics first and check that your real estate agent has a valid licence. By Australian law, a real estate agent must have a licence to operate a business, and you should never engage an unlicensed real estate agent.
If you have any questions about selling or buying property, or choosing a real estate agent, get in touch with our leasing lawyers on 1300 544 755.