Estate agents will will require a licence to operate, and their work will be regulated by a new authority, according to a White Paper issued today.
New estate agents will need to follow a course up to diploma level before being eligible for a licence.
Parliamentary Secretary José Herrera said that “not every Tom, Dick and Harry, can become a an estate agent”.
Dr Herrera said those not adhering to the licensing regulations and code of practice would be liable on conviction of a fine or to imprisonment.
The White Paper (see pdf link below) proposes that no person may carry out real estate agency work unless licensed.
A Real Estate Agents Authority will be set up to administer the licensing regime, keep a register of the licensees, prescribe training courses, develop rules of practice, set fees, develop consumer information, set professional standards for estate agents and investigate reports of offences.
Not every Tom, Dick and Harry, can become a an estate agent
Among other provisions, the White Paper says all estate agents and property consultants must give their clients written terms of business including an explanation of fees and charges and tell their clients if any fees will be payable if the client withdraws his instructions.
An estate agent must inform clients in writing before they agree to use his service about his fee, including VAT. It would need to be made clear when the fee is due. It must also be stated clearly whether the fee is fixed or calculated as a percentage of the selling price.
Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti, who along with Federation of Estate Agents president Douglas Salt, was present for the launch, said that while he agreed with harsh penalties, he believed imprisonment was a bit too excessive.
He said the MDA had already expressed their concern on the matter.
Dr Herrera added that agents need to be regarded as professionals and so an Authority would be set up to manage the licenses.
“We need to ensure that standards are met and so the authority would also be taking in any complaints, be it between buyers and agents and between agents themselves.”
The aim of the White Paper is to initiate a public debate on the considerations being put forward so as to draw up proposals to establish an institutional and legal framework and establish a code of conduct and educational programmes.
The public can send in their feedback on the proposals in the White Paper in the next four weeks.