New licensing system shows regulator's teeth


Reports of teething problems with the new system for licensing of estate agents have trickled steadily in to the Block.

Agents have been surprised by the paperwork involved, and concerns have been raised about the requirement for applicants to show they have held an auctioneer’s licence or permit issued by the Revenue Commissioners for three of the five years immediately preceding their application. This requirement has implications for women practitioners who may have taken leave to have children, or for parents who took a career break to focus on child rearing.

As one estate agent put it: “It’s desperate to have to say to a colleague with 15 years’ experience, IAVI qualifications and a third-level degree that theyre not eligible for the licence because they took time out for their family. There seem to be a lot of grey areas.”

In response, property services regulator Tom Lynch said that the office hadnt noticed this arising as a problem with applications to date. He added: We’re prepared to look at all cases, and if a person can give ample supporting evidence of a special circumstance we will listen to them.

Similarly stories are emerging from smaller agencies, in which unqualified family members help out but are no longer able to do so because they are ineligible for the new licence. According to one agent: The system could look at issuing a training certificate for people to allow them continue to work while they are studying for appropriate qualifications.

However, Lynch says the legislation in its current form doesn’t allow for a training licence, adding that the point of the licensing system is to introduce greater professionalism to the industry. Employees working closely with licence holders and undergoing a course of study can continue to work providing they are not directly engaged in the provision of property services such as price negotiations or contracts. However, they can give out information, including showing houses and handing out brochures.

So far the regulator has received 5,000 applications and, according to Lynch, 250 applicants were instructed to cease trading immediately because they didnt hold auctioneers’ or estate agents licences as issued by the Revenue Commissioners.

There have also been recent cases where traders have been told not to hold an auction because they didn’t meet the necessary requirements. In the event, a licensed colleague was drafted in to do it.

Nobody ever said the path to a professional, transparent industry would run smooth.