Don't give red packets to property agents, watchdog urges

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, 12:00am

It is a tradition to give out lai see during the Lunar New Year, but an industry watchdog has urged consumers not to tip or give red packets secretly to property agents.

'Clients should not privately offer estate agents any rewards,' said Eric Wong Lun-cheong, the Estate Agents Authority's acting director of operations.

'If a client really wants to reward his agent, make sure the company and the other party know about it.'

Stressing that property agents should not bribe, or be bribed, to reach a transaction, Rita Liaw Lily, a programme co-ordinator with the Independent Commission Against Corruption's community relations department, said agents should give receipts for any payment received.

The ICAC received 79 complaints concerning real-estate agents last year, compared with 70 and 65 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. There were 14 cases last year in which people were charged.

Ms Liaw said the number of cases concerning property agents had been steady and accounted for about 3 per cent of corruption complaints in the private sector. Most of these cases were about unlawful transfers of clientele and fraud involving mortgages or loans, she said.

The agents authority's figures show that two property-agent licensees have been banned from the profession for life and one was suspended since 2003 because of unlawful transfers of clientele.

The authority also advised consumers to give agents their commission by cheque and check the terms carefully before signing any agreement, since the Estate Agents Ordinance did not state the amount an agent should receive.

The Estate Agents Authority and the ICAC have recently published a booklet on how to prevent bribery and maintain their integrity for estate-agency practitioners.

As of the end of last year, there were 21,770 licensed property agents in the city.