Minister for Justice announces new Minimum Standards for the provision of Property Services
New Rules for Auctioneers, Estate Agents involved in the sale, purchase or letting of property; and to property management agents
30 November 2020
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, T.D, announced today that she signed a statutory instrument consenting to the making of regulations by the Property Services Regulatory which will introduce a range of minimum standards to be observed by auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents.
These regulations, drawn up by the Property Services Regulatory Authority, set out a range of minimum standards to be observed in the provision of property services to clients. Failure to comply with the standards set out in the Regulations will amount to “improper conduct” and could give rise to the imposition of a sanction, including a monetary penalty or the suspension or revocation of a licensee’s licence, by the Property Services Regulatory Authority.
The Minister said,
“Today’s announcement builds on the standards which are currently in place for property services providers. Our goal is to ensure continued delivery by property services providers of a professional and high standard of service to their clients and equally that clients are informed of the standards which they can expect when they engage a property services provider.”
The Property Service (Regulation) Act sets out the obligations of auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents in the provision of property services aimed at ensuring protection for their clients. Both businesses that provide property services, and their employees who provide such services, are required to be licensed.
These new regulations require that:
- Where a licensee holds a security deposit in relation to the letting of land or property, which is due to be paid to a client or returned to a tenant, the licensee shall make the payment to the client or tenant as provided for in the letter of engagement or, if not specified, not later than 10 working days after the day the tenant vacates the property.
- Where a licensee holds a booking deposit in respect of the sale of land or property, which is due to be paid to the client or refunded to another person, the licensee shall make such payment or refund not later than 10 working days after receipt of written instructions from the client or after the day on which the deposit is due to be refunded.
- A licensee shall refund any unused advertising outlay to a client within the timeframe provided for in the letter of engagement or, if not specified, not later than 10 working days after the conclusion or termination of a property services agreement.
- A licensee who receives a payment from a tenant on behalf of a client, shall transfer the payment to the client within the timeframe agreed in the letter of engagement or, if not specified, not later than 30 days after receipt of the payment.
- A licensee must not claim to possess experience, competence, training or resources, including financial resources, in respect of the provision of a property service, which he or she does not possess.
- A property services employer shall not direct, or facilitate in any way, an unlicensed individual to provide a property service except where the property service comes within a particular exemption.
- A licensee shall not seek or accept any form of inducement in respect of the provision of a property service.
- A licensee shall not knowingly produce, publish or circulate, or cause to be produced, published or circulated, by whatever means, false or misleading advertising information.
The Minister concluded:
“I thank the Property Services Regulatory Authority for the significant amount of work it has undertaken in completing these regulations following extensive consultation by the Authority.”
Note to Editors
The Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 provides for the establishment of the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) to regulate the provision of property services by property services providers. It established a system of licensing, regulating and supervising property services providers. The Act includes key consumer protection measures, such as mandatory minimum qualification standards, professional indemnity insurance, a financial guarantee scheme (Property Services Compensation Fund) and a requirement to maintain a separate client account. Licensees must also issue a letter of engagement to clients prior to the provision of a property service so that clients know in advance the services that will be provided to them and the cost of those services.
The Act applies to auctioneers (whether of land or goods); to estate agents involved in the sale, purchase or letting of property; and to property management agents. Both businesses that provide property services, and their principal officers and employees who provide such services, are required to be licensed. Currently the PSRA licences approximately 1,800 businesses and 4,000 employees annually. It is an offence to provide a property service without a licence.
Section 95(1)(c) of the Act empowers the PSRA, with the consent, or on the direction of the Minister for Justice, to make regulations to provide for the standards to be observed by licensees in the provision of property services with particular reference to the public interest, the duty owed by licensees to their clients and users of property services and potential clients and users, professional and ethical conduct, confidentiality of client information and conflicts of interest.
The PSRA is empowered to investigate licensees (on its own initiative or on the basis of a complaint) and to impose sanctions on licensees in respect of “improper conduct”.
The purpose of the Regulations is to set out standards that licensees must comply with and to bring clarity and set parameters of acceptability in areas which, up to now, have been open to interpretation. Failure to comply with the standards set out in the Regulations will amount to “improper conduct” and could give rise to the imposition of a sanction by the PSRA. The PSRA is empowered to impose a major sanction (revoke or suspend a licence or impose a financial penalty) or a minor sanction (issue advice, a caution, a warning or a reprimand).
The Regulations are the culmination of over two years of work by the PSRA. They have been drafted following extensive consultations and engagement with sector representative bodies (i.e. Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV), Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) and Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS)) together with nationwide focus groups of licensees comprising of both employers and individual licensed employees and also with members of the PSRA Forum.