Estate agents office adds an investigator

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am

The Estate Agents Authority has enlisted a former anti-corruption officer to help crack down on increasingly complicated and organised malpractice in the real estate industry in response to a rise in the number complaints.

Authority figures showed 112 of the 360 complaints, 31 per cent, against agents processed for the first half of this year were substantiated. For the same period last year, 77 of 303 cases (25 per cent) were substantiated.

Most were about misleading information or sales malpractice.

In the first six months, 20 property agents had their licences suspended. Last year 51, agents were suspended and two lost their licences.

While authority chairman Steven Poon Kwok-lim maintained there was no drastic decline in the quality of Hong Kong's estate agents, he said the cases were becoming more complex and better organised.

Mr Poon said the authority recently created a chief investigation manager post to look into such cases, and Eric Wong, a former investigator at the Independent Commission Against Corruption, filled it.

'I am not saying it's organised crime, but it seems more people are involved in these malpractices.'

Mr Poon cited a common trick, in which salespeople from one agency arrange for its clients' transactions to be taken over by another agency. Another common form of malpractice was when agencies offered high commission rates to induce agents from other firms to refer business to them.

'We shall certainly be paying more attention to these bad practices,' Mr Poon said.

Earlier this year, buyers of a Cheung Kong (Holdings) project in Kwai Chung said agents misled them into rushing into deals.

Last year, agents were allegedly showing their own cheques to buyers, presenting them as initial deposits, to show how much interest there was in the flats.

Also last year, a former general manager of Centaline Property was arrested in connection with a corruption case. He appeared in court this week and his hearing has been adjourned until September 11.

Cause for complaint

The authority says sharp practice is becoming better organised

The number of substantiated complaints against agents in the first half of this year: 112