The Real Estate Board (REB) is urging members of the public to verify the legitimacy of dealers via their website, to avoid becoming victims of real estate fraud.
This comes against the background of a case currently in the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Court involving a real estate salesman accused of accepting millions of dollars from a complainant for the purchase of land. The salesman was not authorised to sell.
“The ‘member search’ section of our website, www.reb.gov, is filtered by dealer, salesman, developer and development. The site will show his or her licence number, contact information, and the current licensed period,” Chief Executive Officer of the REB, Sandra Garrick, told JIS News.
She explained that in the fraud case currently before the court, such a check would have indicated that the salesman in question had not been licensed with the Board for more than two years and, therefore, not legally allowed to practise.
“Checking the validity of a dealer’s licence is a crucial step in exercising due diligence. Other steps may include the use of a conveyancing attorney or checks with other regulatory bodies, such as the National Land Agency, where the title may be examined,” Mrs. Garrick said.
She pointed out that doing the necessary “pre-checks} will provide further insight into the ownership of the real estate and information on the authorisation to sell the property.
“Members of the public can lodge complaints with the Board against a real estate professional involving any kind of impropriety. The Board will, where necessary, refer matters to the police, especially those involving forgery of documents or breaches of the Larceny Act, such as Fraudulent Conversion and obtaining money under false pretence,” Mrs. Garrick informed.
She highlighted that the Board has the authority to enact its own disciplinary action, most commonly the suspension or revocation of a licence to practise real estate in relation to various breaches under the Real Estate (Dealers and Developers) Act.
These breaches include practising without a licence; professional misconduct; failure to lodge prepayment monies into a Trust account and reporting these to the Board; failure to account for clients’ money when called on to do so; and undertaking duties and responsibilities for which he or she is not properly registered or licensed.
Mrs. Garrick pointed out that as stipulated by the Real Estate (Dealers and Developers) Act, Section 35 (4) (a) (ii), the Board cannot register or maintain the licence of anyone convicted of a crime related to real estate, or who has an undischarged bankruptcy charge against him or her.