Photo of the CEA’s reception area. Source: CEA
A Chinese national on a student pass was fined $40,000 last December after he pleaded guilty to four charges of acting as an unlicensed estate agent, according to the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA).
Zhang Qianlong sourced for available rental properties online, which he would then advertise on social portals commonly used by Chinese nationals in Singapore. Once contacted by potential clients, he would take note of their requirements and inform them of his referral fee.
He would then look for suitable properties based on their requirements and contact the landlords’ registered agents to arrange for viewings. Introducing himself as “Daniel”, Zhang would tell the landlords or their agents that he was helping his friends ask about the availability of the units.
Aside from accompanying the tenants for viewings, Zhang also negotiated the rental amount on their behalf and guided them through the tenancy agreements.
He was able to close 10 rental transactions within a period of six months from January to July 2014, and collected $11,000 in referral fees. A tip-off from a staff member of a licensed estate agent shed light on his actions.
In his mitigation plea, Zhang, who originally faced 11 charges, said he committed the offences to ease the financial difficulties of his mother and grandparents who were ill. He also claimed that he was not aware that it was illegal for him to help prospective tenants find accommodation and collect payment from them.
To conduct estate agency work in Singapore, both businesses and individuals should be licensed and registered by the CEA. This is applicable to all estate agency work carried out for local and foreign properties marketed, sold or leased in Singapore.
As such, it is an offence for a person to perform or accept fees for estate agency work without being registered with the CEA through a licensed estate agent.