Real-estate agent watchdog tightens new sales oversight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2011, 12:00am


The Estate Agents Authority yesterday issued a fresh directive aimed at tightening oversight of new property sales in Hong Kong to avoid incidents like the Icon 'rubbish dump' fiasco in Mid-Levels.

The watchdog has ordered all qualified agents selling new flats in Hong Kong to obtain written approval from developers for the release of any promotional material about the properties.

Any agent or agency that produces and circulates promotion material not cleared by developers could be held accountable for any discrepancy between the specifics of a property and the information provided in the promotion material.

The authority has the power to penalise agents or agencies that breach the directive - from imposing compulsory training to termination of an agent's licence.

William Leung Wing-cheung, chairman of the authority's practice and examination committee, said agents would not be held responsible for inaccurate information in promotion material if it had not been approved by developers.

'This circular is very clear: the estate agents should not issue any promotional material of their own,' Leung said. 'So I think that will help stop the blame game.'

He did not comment when asked whether the authority would act if developers were found to be involved in the circulation of false information.

Legislator Lee Wing-tat, a member of a Legislative Council committee that suggested new laws to regulate new home sales, criticised the new circular as ineffective.

'What if someone complains about false information given by agents who have already got written approval? Who then is going to be charged, and under what law?' said Lee, who is chairman of the Legco housing panel. 'There should be a law that makes it a criminal offence for developers to mislead buyers.'

The 'rubbish flat' fiasco unfolded in January as buyers of a luxury development on Conduit Road complained that their new homes were unfinished and filled with construction waste. Property agency Centaline was the sole agent. By the end of February, 22 of 26 dissatisfied buyers had accepted developer Winfoong International's buy-back deal.