Mandatory CPD for property agents
On 1 September 2022, the Department of Justice and Attorney-General released a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) in relation to the proposed introduction of mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) for property agents in Queensland for public consultation1.
On 30 September 2022, the REIQ as the peak industry body for the real estate profession in Queensland, provided a comprehensive submission to the Department in response to the RIS.
In order to become a licensed real estate agent or registered salesperson in Queensland, an individual must complete a nationally accredited training course, and pass a range of rigorous background checks. However, once these initial educational requirements are completed and the licence or registration is granted, there is currently no requirement for any further training or professional development so long as that person’s licence or registration remains current.
It is difficult for property agents in Queensland to keep fully up-to-date with changes to laws governing the real estate sector without any form of structured formal training. This poses a significant risk to ordinary Queenslanders who, when engaging a real estate practitioner, may end up receiving material advice that is incorrect.
As a core policy position, the REIQ has consistently lobbied the Queensland Government to introduce mandatory CPD for property agents in Queensland for almost a decade. As part of the REIQ commitment to cultivating and maintaining the highest professional standards in the Queensland real estate sector, since 2005 the REIQ has required its members to undertake CPD as a condition of membership. Introducing mandatory CPD for property agents in Queensland will ensure all real estate practitioners can deliver the highest level of service to clients and consumers and will enhance the integrity of the profession in Queensland.
The purpose of the RIS was to provide explanation of proposed regulation and allow key industry stakeholders to examine options and make appropriate recommendations to the Department on a wholistic basis. Such recommendations should take the practical, economic, social and legal impacts of introducing regulation into consideration.
The RIS attempted to identify a problem and put forward a proposed solution. The proposal outlined four (4) options being considered by the Department for the implementation of the regime.
The data relied on by the Department is deduced from the number of complaints received by the Office of Fair Trading and categorised by how same had been handled. It is our qualified view that this data is significantly flawed and does not paint an accurate picture of the true issues and deficiencies in knowledge and skills in the real estate profession that need to be identified to effectively deliver the regime.
The problem referred to as “principal-agent” is an oversimplification of one type of behaviour experienced in the industry, carried out by some agents. The true problems which must be ascertained and properly addressed, are more diverse and sector specific.
The four (4) options for mandatory CPD proposed by the Department are:
- To not implement mandatory CPD;
- To implement a light model where property agents would need to complete two (2) CPD sessions annually, one (1) from a national property services training package and one (1) from an annual government-approved list;
- To implement a heavy model where property agents would need to complete ten (10) CPD sessions annually, six (6) from mandatory activities and four (4) from elective activities; and
- To implement a model where property agents would need to complete five (5) CPD sessions annually, three (3) from mandatory activities and two (2) from elective activities.
We were not able to provide support to any option in particular without the Department’s clarification about a number of inconsistencies between the RIS and the vocational education training industry standards. For example, whether a “session” means a unit of competency in a national property services training package would have a significant effect on which option we supported. Without this elaboration, the options cannot be considered properly.
Co-Regulation with the REIQ
Of particular concern is the Department’s position that it will not consider co-regulating with the REIQ, as the peak industry body in Queensland and current sole provider of CPD for property agents in Queensland. It is our strong view that co-regulating mandatory CPD with the REIQ as the provider is the rational course of action and will bring the greatest benefit to the industry both practically and economically.
The REIQ has the industry insight, resources, access and training infrastructure that will be required to effectively deliver the regime. Our view is affirmed by the RIS’s misidentification of the core problem in the profession and insufficient understanding of the actual knowledge gaps and skill deficiencies that are experienced by real estate professionals which lead to complaints.
To demonstrate the above, in our Submission, we provided a sample of data setting out the categories of complaints we receive from members of the public to show what issues are most prominent. The issues highlighted by the REIQ data were more detailed and diverse than the information in the RIS taken from the Office of Fair Trading. From the details of the complaints, we suggested the following issues are a more accurate representation of current issues inherent in the real estate industry:
- real estate professionals may not be aware of or properly understand their current legal requirements;
- real estate professionals may not have practical systems in place to ensure they are keeping compliant with their obligations;
- real estate professionals may have cross-sector knowledge gaps (ie. an agent practicing in one sector not being aware of requirements in other sectors);
- all parties’ lack of understanding of their responsibilities under relevant agreement (PO Form 6, Contract for Sale, General Tenancy Agreement);
- skill deficiencies in communication, negotiating, critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, collaboration and professionalism;
- human error;
- operational aspects for real estate business, ie. staff turnover, access to resources, conduct and professionalism; and
- other parties having misconceptions about an agent’s role, their responsibilities and legal obligations.
We also provided insights to the most frequently asked questions we receive through our agency advisory and property management support service to demonstrate the actual knowledge gaps experienced by practicing agents in the industry and which should be addressed with CPD.
We further noted that the Department should not underestimate the complexity of issues a real estate agent must deal with being the facilitator of property transactions/arrangements between two primary contracting parties (ie. buyer-seller and tenant-landlord). An agent is bound to comply with the client’s instructions which can sometimes conflict with legal requirements or contractual requirements. The aggrieved party may raise a complaint against a real estate professional that is acting in accordance with their client’s instructions, and in such circumstances, is in the best interest of the client even if it places the other party (buyer or tenant, for example) at a disadvantage.
A real estate agent is licensed to perform in the following unique and distinct sectors Residential Sales and Purchases, Property Management, Commercial Sales and Purchases, Auctioneering and Business Broking. Accordingly, it is imperative that each sector is taken into consideration when determining how the mandatory CPD regime can be best implemented to serve all sectors to the same degree needed. The regime must not be viewed as a ‘one-size-fits all’ solution.
The REIQ noted that if the Department intends to formulate its policy on the information contained in the RIS and fails to take appropriate recommendations given by the REIQ into consideration, there is a real and critical risk of the Department introducing a regime that fails to address the actual knowledge gaps and skill deficiencies in the profession.
The REIQ is willing and ready to work with the Government and committed to implementing a Mandatory CPD regime. The quality and standard of training provided by the REIQ is unmatched and necessary to raise the caliber of the real estate profession in Queensland.
For a full copy of the REIQ Submission, please make your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
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