Real Estate Agent Licences in Queensland
Everything you need to know: QLD Real Estate Agent Licences
Real estate agents who are facing criminal allegations or allegations of breaching the real estate legislation in the course of their practice of property agent work, should seek legal advice immediately from lawyers experienced in criminal law and in disciplinary law matters.
Why use Potts Lawyers?
Our Civil Litigation Lawyers are experienced at assisting real estate agents in Queensland who face having their licences suspended or cancelled, and also applicants whose licences have not been granted due to suitability matters.
Existing licensees can have their licences cancelled due as a result of breaches of the Property Occupations Act 2014, and can even have their licences cancelled due to conduct in their private capacity which goes to their suitability to continue to hold registration.
What does a Real Estate Agent Licence allow you to do?
In Queensland, you must register to be a real estate agent in order to:
- own or manage a real estate agency;
- buy, sell, exchange or rent houses, businesses, land or any interest in these
- negotiate on behalf of a buyer, seller, landlord or exchanging or renting of houses, businesses or land
- show property to potential buyers
- inspect and assess property for sale or rent
- collect rent on behalf of a landlord
- advertise a property for rent or sale (includes setting up signs)
- open up a property for inspection for sale or rent
- manage an apartment complex and sell any units independently, without having to work through an established agency
- operate a trust account on behalf of sellers and buyers.
Penalties for Unlicensed Property Agent Work
At the time of writing this article, undertaking unlicensed property agent work can attract fines of up to $27,570 or 2 years imprisonment, and companies or persons who employ a person who is unlicensed and unregistered can face a maximum penalty of $27,570.
Unlicensed property agent work includes working without a licence or registration, or selling, hiring or lending out a licence or registration.
Eligibility & Suitability Matters
In 2014, the Property Occupations Act 2014 (Qld) replaced the previous legislation regulating real estate agents. There are both eligibility and suitability requirements for successfully applying for and continuing to hold a real estate agent licences.
In order to be eligible to hold a real estate agent licence you must be 18 years or older and pass the required training course.
The most common aspect of real estate agent matters which we assist clients with, is where there are allegations that they are not “suitable” to be real estate agents.
Persons who are not suitable to become real estate agents include persons who:
- are an insolvent under administration;
- are currently disqualified from holding a licence or registration certificate; and
- have been convicted of a serious offence in the past 5 years.
A serious offence is prescribed in the Act and is discussed in further detail below.
Additional Suitability Matters
In addition to the suitability matters set out above, the Office of Fair Trading and their Industry Licensing Unit may also consider additional factors in ascertaining whether a person is suitable to be a real estate agent.
These additional considerations include, but are not limited to, whether the person:
- has a criminal history (including offences which are not considered “serious offences”);
- has been an executive officer of a corporation that was licensed and which has gone insolvent;
- has had any other licences or registrations that were suspended or cancelled;
- is disqualified from being a company director;
- is incapable of satisfactorily doing the job of a licensee; and
- is unsuitable because of their character or the character of their business associates.
A person applying for a real estate licence, or a real estate agent with an existing licence, can have their licence refused or cancelled (respectively), if those agents are convicted of certain offences involving:
- violent offences (including threats to use violence)
- fraud or dishonesty offences
- drug trafficking
- unlawful stalking
- an offence of a sexual nature.
Applicants or existing real estate agents who believe they have a criminal history or who are facing criminal allegations of this or a similar nature, should immediately seek legal advice on whether that specific offence fits within the category of offences listed above. On occasion, it is not always clear whether an offence falls under the categories set out above.
By seeking legal advice early from experienced lawyers, a strategy can sometimes be employed to minimise the risk of the criminal matter affecting their ability to begin or continue to work in their chosen profession.
Criminal and Civil Law Overlap
Potts Lawyers has noticed an increase in the numbers of real estate agents or applicants who obtained incomplete legal advice from other criminal law firms. Some of those law firms failed to notify their real estate agent clients on the consequences that a conviction could have on their licence.
Clients who are real estate agents or who want to become a real estate agent in the future, and who are facing any type of criminal allegation or charge, should engage lawyers who are experienced at also providing disciplinary law advice with respect to how a criminal charge or conviction could affect their existing licence or any future licence application to become a real estate agent (generally, this also applies to clients who are applying for other licences).
Even in circumstances where clients have other criminal lawyers assisting them with their criminal matters, the civil litigation law team at Potts Lawyers can work cooperatively with those criminal lawyers to advise clients on the impact that the criminal matter could have on their licence, whether a current real estate licence, or any other licence which they may need to attain in the future.
What should you do if it is alleged that you are not suitable?
Any applicant or current real estate agent who has received a letter from the Office of Fair Trading stating that they may not be suitable because of any of the suitability matters set out in this article, should immediately seek advice from lawyers experienced in this area of law to obtain assistance in preparing submissions.
The preparation of detailed submissions as part of the “show cause process” is an important component of the application process and affords both applicants and existing real estate agents an opportunity to respond to any suitability concerns which have been identified. Please also see our other article on responding to show cause letters generally.
Persons who have attempted to respond to these letters without the assistance of lawyers risk the possibility of not addressing the relevant considerations which the Department considers in assessing these matters. This could have the devastating effect of that person’s licence not being granted or being suspended or cancelled.
Seeking early legal advice is important. If inadequate submissions are made and a licence is suspended or cancelled, a person’s next recourse may only be to litigate in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
QCAT proceedings are generally more costly than submissions, and so obtaining legal assistance early and preparing detailed submissions with the assistance of lawyers may enable a person to successfully resolve the matter early and at minimal expense, without the need to go to QCAT which will certainly lead to additional legal costs.
Potts Lawyers is experienced at assisting clients with drafting the wording of submissions which are aimed at maximising the chances of succeeding where allegations involving suitability arise.
Suspension or Cancellation of Licences
Existing real estate agents risk having their licences suspended if the chief executive or a delegate thereof is of the view that the agent has engaged in certain conduct, including but not limited to where the agent:
- obtained or renewed their licence based on incorrect or misleading information;
- has irregularities or deficiencies in their trust account reports;
- failed to file an audit report (as required).
Similarly, real estate licences can be cancelled if the chief executive or a delegate thereof is of the view that the real estate agent has:
- contravened or is contravening the Property Occupations Act 2014 or the Guardianship and Administration Act; or
- has contravened previous legislation regulating real estate agents; or
- is likely or proposing to engage in conduct that would contravene the Property Occupations Act 2014 or the Guardianship and Administration Act.
It is important that real estate agents obtain timely legal advice as early as possible to minimise the risk of their licences being suspended or cancelled.
Potts Lawyers is experienced at assisting real estate agents and applicants with all of their licensing needs and has assisted clients with suitability concerns and to successfully attain or keep their licences.
It is important that real estate agents and applicants obtain early legal advice to maximise their chances of succeeding and to minimise their total legal costs.
Potts Lawyers is pleased to offer Queensland real estate agents and applicants a free 20 minute consultation to explain the process and provide professional fee estimates.
Alternatively, you can contact us directly on (07) 5532 3133 for the Gold Coast and (07) 3221 4999 for Brisbane.