Parliament Passes the Real Estate Agency Bill, 2020: What You Need to Know

Real Estate Agency Bill, 2020

Great news for the general public and real estate industry players: The Real Estate Agency Bill has been passed by Parliament!

The Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) confirmed the bill has been passed by Parliament pending assent by the President to make it an enforceable Act. Also, a representative of the Ghana Association of Real Estate Brokers (GAR) said “We, at the Ghana Association of Real Estate Brokers (GAR) are elated for the industry and the good job done by our Parliament with steering efforts from the Minister for Works and Housing. We are excited that Christian Abossey and Hanna Atiase were able to represent GAR at Parliament during this Housing discussion.”

As Ghana’s largest online real estate marketplace, we at meqasa.com are excited at this development as it will bring back a lot of the lost trust in the practitioners within this industry. While we wait for the bill to become an Act, we thought it would be great to highlight some of the key aspects and processes of the bill that will help clean up the real estate agency practice. Please note that though the provisions are from the Real Estate Agency Bill, 2020, we have taken the liberty to rephrase some parts to make it easier to comprehend. We shall be focusing mainly on the Real Estate Licence.

Requirement for Licence:

In order to practise as a real estate agent in Ghana after the coming into force of this bill, a person must have a Licence issued by the Real Estate Agency Council. This will go a long way to improve public trust in real estate practitioners since by virtue of their licence, people shall be confident they are dealing with a professional who is regulated by a body of ethics.

For avoidance of doubt, without a real estate licence issued under the law, a person will not be allowed to provide real estate agency services; provide services as a real estate agent; engage in any business connected with the provision of real estate agency services; or engage in a real estate transaction including the business of finding accommodation for a prospective tenant for a fee.

To make it easy for the public to know who is qualified and who is not, the law provides that the Real Estate Council shall submit an annual report to the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Financial Intelligence Centre of licensed persons.

Conditions for Grant of a licence
The Board may issue a licence to a person if that person is:

  1. An individual who has passed a qualifying examination conducted by the Board, or by an independent testing service designated by the Board.
  2. An individual who has not been convicted of a crime involving fraud, dishonesty or moral turpitude;
  3. A valuation and estate surveyor registered by the Ghana Institution of Surveyors or is a lawyer licensed by the General Legal Council to practise as a lawyer;
  4. In the case of a person who is not resident in this country, is a licensed real estate broker or real estate agent in the country of residence of that person;
  5. Has a Tax Identification Number (TIN);
  6. In the case of a company, society, association or partnership
    1. has submitted an application which is not an application for a licence as real estate agent;
    2. has designated at least one of its officers or partners as its representative for the purpose of obtaining the licence; and
    3. has, for the purpose of the licence, designated an officer or partner who, as an individual, has a licence to practise as a real estate broker as the representative of that company, society, association or partnership; or
    4. has executed and submitted to the Council a mortgage bond or has had executed and submitted to the Council on behalf of that person, by a surety company licensed to operate that business in this country, a mortgage bond in the sum specified and in the form approved by the Board and guaranteed by a surety approved by the Board.

Application for a License
According to the new law, The application for a licence shall
1. Be signed and supported with a statutory declaration by the applicant;
2. Be made to the Board in the form determined by the Council;
3. In the case of a company, society, association or partnership [the application must] be accompanied with an attestation that officers of the company, society, association or partnership do not have any criminal record;
4. Where appropriate, [the application must] be accompanied with the prescribed fee for examination; and
5. Be accompanied with evidence that the applicant is a citizen.

Examinations
An examination conducted under this Act shall require the applicant being examined to demonstrate competence through a fair understanding of
1. The principles of real estate practice,
2. Real estate law,
3. basic law of agency,
4. rudimentary principles of economics,
5. professional ethics of real estate agency,
6. appraisal of real estate,
7. any relevant subject determined by the Council, and the provisions of the law.

The Board shall conduct examinations at least once in each year.
An individual applicant for a licence as a real estate agent who is required to write an examination shall, as a condition for writing the examination, submit satisfactory proof to the Board that that applicant has successfully completed courses specified in the list above; and a real estate broker, who is required to write an examination shall, as a condition for writing the examination, provide to the Board satisfactory proof that the applicant has
1. been actively involved in real estate agency practice for a period of at least one year as a real estate agent; and
2. completed courses specified in the list above.

A person shall only be permitted to write an examination if that person has paid the required examination fee determined by the Board.

Grant of Licence

After a valid application for a licence has been submitted, the following shall be satisfied before an applicant is granted the applicable real estate licence.
1. The Council shall, on receipt of an application, carry out background checks including investigation of criminal history and inspection of the facilities of the applicant that the Board considers necessary.
2. The Council shall, within ninety days after the receipt of an application, if the Council determines that the applicant has satisfied the conditions of a licence, grant the applicant a licence.
3. A licence issued according to the provision above (2) shall
(a) be in the form determined by the Council;
(b) bear the name and address of the licencee;
(c) specify the nature of the licence by stating whether the licence is granted for a real estate broker or a real estate
agent;
(d) in the case of a licence for a real estate broker issued to a
company, society, association or partnership, bear the name of each designated officer or partner to whom, as an individual, a real estate broker’s licence has been issued;
(e) indicate the date of issue;
(f) be valid for two years from the date of issue but be subject to renewal;
(g) be subject to the terms and conditions determined by the Board; and
(h) bear the seal of the Council.

IMPORTANT: A licence issued under this Act shall not be transferred.

Renewal of licence
A licence granted under under this law may be renewed after it has expired, if

(a) the application for renewal

  1. is made not later than thirty days before the licence expires;
  2. is signed and accompanied with a statutory declaration by the applicant; and
  3. is in the form determined by the Council; and

(b) the applicant

  1. is not in breach of any of the terms and conditions of the licence;
  2. satisfies the requirements for the grant of the licence;
  3. has a valid tax clearance certificate; and
  4. has paid the prescribed fee for the renewal of the licence.

Use of Licence by a Designated Officer or Partner
A person who is designated as an officer or a partner for the purpose of obtaining a real estate broker’s licence is entitled to perform the functions of a real estate broker, as a broker or officer of the company, society, association or partnership to which that person is a designated officer or partner.
Such a person, as specified above, shall not act as a real estate broker on that person’s own behalf for as long as that person remains a designated officer or partner of the company, society, association or partnership.

Suspension or revocation of a licence
Except as otherwise provided in this Act, the Council shall revoke the real estate broker licence of a company, society, association or partnership, if that company, society, association or partnership ceases to have a licensed real estate broker as the designated officer or broker of that company, society, association or partnership.
The Council shall also revoke the licence of a real estate broker or agent if the Council discovers that the licence was obtained by fraud.
Without limiting the above provisions (1st and 2nd paragraph), the Council may revoke the licence of a real estate broker or agent

  1. where the agreement entered into by that real estate broker in relation to the licence of that real estate broker ceases to be effective;
  2. if that broker or agent is convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for a serious offence; or
  3. if in the performance of a function authorised by the licence, the real estate broker or agent
    1. knowingly made a fraudulent misrepresentation;
    2. acted in the dual capacity of broker and undisclosed principal in the same transaction;
    3. acted for more than one party in the same transaction without the knowledge and consent of the parties
      that the licensee represented in the transaction;
    4. accepted, gave or charged an undisclosed commission, rebate or profit on expenditures from a principal;
    5. commingled the money or other property of a property owner with those of the licensee;
    6. failed to disclose information on a property which is the subject matter of a transaction; or
    7. accepted from a prospective seller a net listing.
  4. The Council may suspend the licence of a real estate broker or agent, where the Council discovers that the real estate broker or agent in the performance of a function authorised by the licence
    1. fails to use the real estate forms required for that function, where the function is a real estate transaction;
    2. accepts cash in payment for the function, where the function is a real estate transaction;
    3. fails, within reasonable time which shall not exceed one month, to pay out money received into the client account, to the person entitled to that money;
    4. paid a commission or fees, or divided commission or fees to a person who is not a licensed real estate broker or agent; or
    5. fails to give a copy of the sale and purchase agreement to both the seller and purchaser of real property.
  5. The Council shall only suspend or revoke a licence, if the Council
    1. gives at least ten days’ notice to the person whose licence the Council intends to suspend or revoke;
    2. states in the notice the grounds of the suspension or revocation, where appropriate;
    3. serves on the affected licensee a copy of any complaint or charges which the Agency proposes to consider; and
    4. gives the licensee affected, the opportunity to
      1. appear personally for a hearing or be represented by a lawyer; and
      2. examine and cross-examine witnesses and present documents and other evidence in support of the case of that affected licensee.

 

As can be seen from the above, quite a lot of thought has been put into this law and it is sure to bring a lot of clarity and transparency among others to activities within the real estate space if properly implemented. We are highly excited to see it in action and look forward to the creation of the Real Estate Agency Council and Board whom, we believe, will among many others, serve as a formal regulatory body to streamline the activities of and give licences to qualified real estate agents/brokers who will be properly vetted via credible examinations before receiving their certifications.

We look forward to exciting times in Ghana’s growing real estate space!

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