Unlicensed property agent fined $16,000 after illegal subletting

SINGAPORE - After facilitating an illegal subletting agreement in 2012, Jordon Goh Swee Thye, 48, was discovered to be an unlicensed estate agent. He was convicted for unlicensed estate agency work and sentenced to a fine of $16,000 on Sept 10.

Goh had advertised a Housing Board flat in Block 92 Henderson Road for rental on Internet portal Gumtree. But it was an HDB rental flat, which tenants are not supposed to sublet, something which Goh knew.

A subtenant saw the advertisement, contacted Goh and arranged to view the property. Goh conducted the viewing and helped negotiate a monthly rental of $1,200, which the subtenant would pay to the HDB tenant. A one-year tenancy agreement was signed for the year starting February 2012, and Goh collected $600 in commission each from the tenant and subtenant.

When HDB discovered that the rental flat was being sublet illegally, it took action against the main tenant and repossessed the flat in June 2012.

The subtenant, who could no longer stay there and could not get back his rental deposit or the commission paid to Goh, reported the matter to the Council for Estate Agencies.

The CEA found that Goh had knowingly performed estate agency work even though he was not licensed. After its investigations, the CEA charged Goh in court in June.

In a statement on Monday, CEA advised customers to engage only licensed or registered estate agents. An agent's status can be checked on the public register www.cea.gov.sg.

Said CEA: "When consumers respond to advertisements in Internet portals, they should check if the person posting the advertisement is licensed/registered with CEA.

"Such persons are required to display their licence number and registration number in their advertisement."

If this was not done, such as in this case involving Goh, the consumer should exercise caution, it added.

The public can report those who do unlicensed estate agency work to CEA on 1800-6432555 or feedback@cea.gov.sg.

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