Estate Agents – Unqualified Hucksters?

Posted on May 1, 2007 by | 0 Comments

Tim O'Dwyer M.B., LL.Bby Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B Queensland Solicitor & Consumer Advocate watchdog@argonautlegal.com.au

Queensland’s estate agents (and their counterparts across the nation) rarely want clients or customers, vendors or purchasers, buyers or sellers to see independent solicitors and to be legally advised before contracts are signed. For obvious reasons. Solicitors who aren’t in cahoots with agent mates tend to be seen as “deal-killers”. I know it says 'CONTRACT' but it's merely an offer until the vendor signs it. The recent real estate and conveyancing reforms in the Australian Capital Territory include this commendable legislative restriction on the traditional anti-lawyer wont of agents and their sales people:

“If a prospective party to a proposed contract for the sale of residential property for whom an agent or sales person acts tells the agent or sales person, or it is apparent from the proposed contract, that a lawyer is or will be acting for the party, the agent or sales person must not take part in the exchange of contracts or the making of the contract unless expressly authorised to do so by the party or the lawyer.”
Three years earlier Queensland brought in a statutory Real Estate Agency Practice Code of Conduct which includes this remarkable (but widely ignored and completely unenforced) consumer protection:
“A real estate agent must give a client a genuine opportunity to obtain relevant independent professional advice or representation before the client appoints the agent.

A real estate agent must give a client or customer a genuine opportunity to obtain relevant independent professional advice or representation before signing a contract for the sale or purchase of property.”
Funnily enough when Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading later issued a “Good Business Guide” to help licensed agents comply with the law and ensure their business practices were up-to-date, these Code provisions were explained not as mandatory agents’ obligations but inaccurately as optional consumers’ rights!


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