on 7 September 1998
Legislative Council Panel on Housing
Estate Agents (Registration and Licensing) Regulations
This paper informs Members of the Adminstration's intention to table the Estate Agents (Registration and Licensing) Regulations (the Regulations) at the Legislative Council within September 1998.
2. The Estate Agents Ordinance (Cap. 511) (the Ordinance) was enacted in May 1997. It aims to improve the standard of service provided by estate agents and protect consumers involved in property transactions. It provides for the setting up of an Estate Agents Authority (EAA) to regulate the trade through the implementation of a licensing system. All estate agents and salespersons who practise estate agency work will be required to obtain a licence from the EAA after the implementation of the Ordinance. Three types of licences will be granted :
- Estate Agent's licence granted to a company operating an estate agency business;
- Estate Agent's licence granted to an individual engaging in estate agency work; and
- Salesperson's licence granted to an individual who performs estate agency work as an employee of an estate agent and under the latter's supervision.
3. While the Ordinance has already laid down a framework on how the trade is to be regulated, it empowered the EAA to prescribe the detailed licensing requirements at a later stage.
4. In accordance with the Ordinance, the EAA will issue licences to estate agents and salespersons, subject only to the usual fit and proper criteria (i.e. 18 years' of age, mentally fit, not an undischarged bankrupt, no criminal record relating to fraud and corruption). For companies, the directors should meet the above fit and proper criteria and at least one director should hold an estate agent's licence.
(b) Educational qualifications and qualifying examination
5. Estate agents play an important role in the property transaction process. To ensure that they are well-equipped to cope with the rapid changes in the operating environment of the real estate market, rising expectations of consumers and increased complexity of property transaction, the EAA prescribed that new entrants to the trade are required to have an educational qualification of Form 5 and passage of a qualifying examination for the purpose of obtaining a licence. The examination will be administered by the Hong Kong Examination Authority in collaboration with the EAA. This is in line with the objective to recruit and attract better qualified persons into the trade so as to raise the standard of service in the long term.
(c) Arrangement for existing practitioners
6. To strike a balance between raising the standards of services and minimising disruptions to the trade, the educational qualification will not apply to existing practitioners. Practising agents will be given three years (starting from 1 January 1999 to 1 January 2002) to pass the examinations. In recognition of the experience of some senior members of the trade, estate agents who have six years' experience in estate agency work will be exempted from the examination. They are only required to complete a training course specified by the EAA within the three year period. Estate agents should therefore have sufficient time to prepare themselves for the examination. The EAA has designed a new course syllabus tailor-made for the trade and has also discussed with a number of tertiary and vocational training institutions on providing and coordinating training courses for the trade.
7. Professional surveyors with one year's estate agency work experience will be exempted from examination. This is in recognition of their professional knowledge and experience required to meet a standard generally higher than that of the estate agents.
Licence fee structure
8. The EAA is self-financing statutory body with income primarily comes from licence fees. The proposed licensing fee structure is given in Annex A. In devising the fee structure, the EAA has taken into full account factors such as its operating costs, size of the estate agency trade and current economic situation. The present establishment of the EAA is only 33, which is required to perform a number of statutory functions including issuance of licences, handling complaints, devising practising regulations, determination of disputes over commission, enforcement, investigation, taking disciplinary actions, training and examination, etc. The prescribed fee levels are the minimum requirement and are reasonable having regard to the need to enable the EAA to have a balanced budget and to discharge its duties effectively.
9. The EAA issued a consultative paper titled "Proposed Licensing Requirements and Practising Regulations for the Estate Agency Trade" in May 1998 to gauge the opinion of the trade, relevant professional bodies and the public. The EAA also participated in a number of seminars in May, June and July this year to exchange views with the trade and these interested parties. The EAA's proposals had been subsequently revised taken into account views received during the consultation exercise.
10. We intend to bring into effect the Ordinance on 1 January 1999. To enable the EAA to have sufficient time to invite and process licence applications, we plan to table the regulations at the Legislative Council within September 1998.
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