The Property Services Regulatory Authority, the PSRA, established to monitor Auctioneers, Estate Agents and Property Management firms, is in the process of pushing court action on businesses who fail to meet its requirements. The PSRA was set up due to concern of unprincipled practices within the property industry. It is now a crime to conduct business within the industry, without the approval of the PSRA, which to date, has licensed 5,500 different firms.
Tom Lynch, chief executive of the PSRA, stated that; “Anyone we have evidence of who is trading without a licence, then we will prosecute them.” Offenders are liable for a prison sentence of up to one year and fines may also be given, when seen fit. Most prosecutions are only being conducted as of the New Year, as up until now, the PSRA has been more focused on licensing businesses.
Currently, the PSRA are investigating complaints of a number of paintings being withheld from an auction, when complaints about their authenticity had been made.
Separately, he mentioned that some businesses had already been censured about the conduct of their operations, in most cases, due to complaints of poor customer service or improper management of customer affairs.
“We have issued some warnings to businesses already, but the major complaints, we are really getting into that properly now,”
With the new regulations, those running businesses to do with property, must bare qualifications equal to a third level diploma, including subjects such as valuation and law.
It is to be noted however, that there is an exemption for people without these qualifications, if they have conducted themselves and their businesses lawfully for three of the five year, moving forward from the establishment of the PSRA in July 2012.
The authority has the ability to appoint inspectors to look into businesses where there have been complaints or suspicion of improper conduct. The inspector may require all information relevant to any investigations and the authority to question any person involved, enter and search premise and inspect bank accounts.
“For example, let’s say somebody is offering something to you for sale and clearly they are aware as an agent that it is defective and they don’t inform you of that, then there is a problem,” Mr Lynch said. “Clearly we may find they are guilty of improper conduct within the meaning of the legislation.
“In such circumstances, there are a wide number of sanctions we can impose on them, ranging from warnings, which would be the norm for minor cases, first breaches, to fines of up to €250,000.”