Over the past 18 months, in my role as Vice President of the Jersey Estate Agents’ Association (JEAA), I have been involved in assisting with the current National Risk Assessment for Jersey which has involved meetings at the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) and the attendance at two workshops organised in conjunction with the World Bank, one at the commencement of our work and secondly one at the preliminary conclusion of our work.
The president of the JEAA, Gill Hunt, has also been involved with this work, as have two other members of JEAA. All involved have been the principal person or owner of the relevant business.
This work has involved a considerable amount of time, time that is voluntarily offered. Gill is also involved in her capacity as regional representative of the NAEA Propertymark and has also had National and Regional Meetings relating to UK agency the upcoming Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA).
We have also been involved locally with the Trading Standards Office and the Property Ombudsman (TPO), more on that a little later.
We consider, as an association, that we have a good and constructive relationship with the departments of the Government of Jersey.
There are currently some 14 member agent businesses of the JEAA, and by dint of that membership, they are also members of the NAEA Propertymark (NAEA) and the Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO). However, there are some 45 agents in Jersey, registered with the JFSC as conducting Schedule 2 business, so this tells us that 31 firms are not members of either scheme.
All member agents must supply the following information (among other items) both to the JEAA and to the NAEA.
• Evidence of current professional indemnity insurance
• Evidence (where agents take funds for rental on behalf of clients) of Client Money Protection Insurance.
Recently, locally, we have taken the view that it is important that all agents apply and pursue the NAEA Propertymark Exams, particularly in light of the Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) work currently being undertaken in the UK. Locally, as a committee, we are all at varying stages of pursuit of this goal but, importantly, presently, this is voluntary.
In the UK, to be an Estate Agent, the agent must comply with the Estate Agents Act (1979) and the Estate Agents Regulations and Orders 1991 as well as Consumer Protection Legislation. The Estate Agents Act and orders have various provisions which clearly also could apply in Jersey.
Since 2008, all persons acting as an Estate Agent in the UK has to be a member of a redress scheme, namely the Property Ombudsman Scheme.
These Regulations link with Section 18 of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and require, among other items:
• all information to be given in writing and before an estate agency contract comes into being
• the agent to explain certain agency terms, for example, sole agency, sole selling rights and multiple agency.
• The Estate Agents (Undesirable Practices) (No 2) Order 1991 which covers disclosures of personal interest in writing and undesirable practices, such as:
• discrimination against buyers who are not taking services (i.e. not selling a property with the agent)
• not notifying the seller that the buyer is taking services from the agent (i.e. the seller of a property must be notified in writing that the buyer has a property to sell and is selling with the same agent).
• instances of misrepresentation, i.e misrepresenting any offers or the existence or status of a buyer, (i.e. there have been offers when there is no real offer in existence, or the buyer has nothing to sell when it is clear that they do or have not been mortgage approved).
• not forwarding offers promptly and in writing to the seller
This Order (as amended by the Estate Agents (Specified Offences) (No 2) Amendment) Order 1992), lists matters that can trigger the enforcement authority to begin investigating an estate agent and their fitness to practice.
The offences include, among others
• a bankrupt acting as a company director
• undertaking investment business without authorisation (e.g dealing with insurance without authorisation)
• causing distress by sending demanding or threatening letters
The entry point for Estate Agents in Jersey is currently to produce a business plan and register with the JFSC. Anyone who feels they could be an agent selling property can do so.
Jersey has, to my knowledge, no Estate Agents Act.
It would appear to the layman to be relatively simple, perhaps, for the legislature to replicate (with a few minor amendments for the intricacies of Jersey property law) and implement the 1979 Act and the 1991 orders as a Jersey Regulation of Estate Agents (202?) Law. In my view Jersey needs one for reputational reasons.
Jersey has one of the most expensive property markets on all levels, from First Time Buyer to High Net Worth Properties (HNW) and yet has no forthright legislation in this area other than Consumer Protection Regulation introduced in 2018.
The very least could be a requirement for all agents to be members of an association such as the JEAA and NAEA and to undertake the Level 2 or 3 Propertymark examinations, within, say, 3 years of becoming a member of the JEAA/NAEA as well as an obligation to be a member of a redress scheme such as the Property Ombudsman. As it happens it is hoped that very shortly this code will be published specifically for the Channel Islands. Currently, member agents comply with the Property Ombudsman code voluntarily.
When I started my agency, ND Estates, in 2009, I did so in the knowledge that, at that time I had nearly 30 years conveyancing knowledge, having worked for a number of the larger legal offices in Jersey and also having dealt with numerous property transactions from HNW properties to large commercial transactions and drafted many contracts and Declarations of Co-Ownership, together with (albeit to a lesser extent) involvement in Share Transfer Transactions. So, I considered that I had a broad range of Jersey property experience, together with a significant amount of transnational experience.
My ten years in this industry, in addition to the previous 28 in Jersey conveyancing, have led me to believe that Regulation of Jersey Property Agents is probably needed.
This has been in part as a result by our business dealings with some other agents who are not members of the JEAA or NAEA, in some cases where there is evidence of a lack of training or knowledge of a property transaction, particularly by those new to the industry. There is also strong anecdotal evidence from our own customers of the practices of the newer agents which appear to directly contravene JEAA/NAEA standards, some actions which would appear to breach the Estate Agents Act if they were conducted in the UK and which probably fly in the face of the Code of Conduct issued by the Property Ombudsman.
As a business, we have required that all members of our staff that are client facing dealing in sales and lettings should register and undertake the relevant exams and have accordingly registered and studies commenced.
Nick Dodsley, MNAEA, is owner of ND Estates, a Jersey Estate Agency established in 2009 and currently Vice President of the Jersey Estate Agents Association.