Just one prosecution of unlicensed property agent since 2012

Property Services Regulatory Authority dealt with 403 complaints of property agents operating without a licence

The Property Services Regulatory Authority may impose major sanctions  on property agents who engage in improper conduct. To date it has done so on one occasion, in 2016, in a case involving McDonnell Properties of Ashford, Co Wicklow. File photograph: PA

The Property Services Regulatory Authority may impose major sanctions on property agents who engage in improper conduct. To date it has done so on one occasion, in 2016, in a case involving McDonnell Properties of Ashford, Co Wicklow. File photograph: PA

 

The body which regulates auctioneers and other property agents has initiated just one prosecution for unlicensed trading since it was established six years ago.

The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) is responsible for regulating and investigating property providers, such as auctioneers, estate agents and letting agents, to ensure they comply with property registration rules.

Since it was set up in July 2012, the authority has dealt with 403 complaints of property agents operating without a licence. Unlicensed operators comprised 18 per cent of the total complaints received by the PSRA since its foundation.

Out of those 403 complaints, there has been just one prosecution brought before the courts. This involved a livestock mart found to be operating without an auctioneering licence in 2016.

According to the PSRA’s latest annual report, this prosecution concluded in June 2017 after the operator of the livestock mart pleaded guilty in the District Court.

The defendant agreed to obtain a licence from the PSRA and the judge in the case agreed not to impose a conviction.

“The Authority takes the statutory requirement to have a licence when providing, offering or advertising property services very seriously,” the PSRA annual report states.

“Companies or individuals providing services without a licence deprive their clients of the important consumer protections offered by the Act and constitute unfair competition for those who provide services in a law-abiding fashion.”

Cases dropped

Of the 403 cases of suspected unlicensed operators reported to the PSRA since 2012, 365 case files were opened. Of these, 117 cases were dropped when it was determined the subject of the complaint had obtained a licence.

In 197 cases there was not enough evidence to proceed with an investigation. Another 36 cases are currently in various stages of the investigation or pre-investigation process.

The PSRA also has the authority to impose major sanctions itself on property agents who engage in improper conduct. To date it has done so on one occasion, in 2016, in a case involving McDonnell Properties of Ashford, Co Wicklow.

The authority imposed a €25,000 fine on the company for improper conduct surrounding the management of booking deposits it had received. The money was paid into the Property Services Compensation Fund after the sanction was affirmed by the High Court.

In total, the PSRA has received 1,585 complaints relating to alleged breaches of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 since 2012.

Of these 1,205 (76 per cent) were not proceeded with. Another 75 were withdrawn by the parties involved.

The most common reason for complaint (409 or 27 per cent) was unhappiness with the service received from the property agent.

Complaints related to deposits not being returned accounted for 365 cases (16 per cent), while unethical conduct accounted for 183 cases (8 per cent).

The authority can also impose minor sanctions such as a caution, a warning or advice. In 2017, it conducted 656 audits of which 187 (29 per cent) resulted in minor sanctions.