Woman without proper licence conducted viewings, closed deal for rental room as 'part-time property agent'

SINGAPORE -  A woman who represented herself to home owners as a part-time property agent but was not licensed as one was fined $15,000 on Wednesday (May 8). 

Vanessa Thien Cai Yan, 43, was charged on March 13 for advertising the rental of rooms on online platforms, conducting a viewing, and closing a room rental transaction in 2017.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty to two charges in total -  for representing herself as an estate agent without first being licensed by the Council of Estate Agents (CEA), and for holding herself out as being ready to undertake estate agency work without a licence, whether or not for payment or other forms of remuneration.

Under the Estate Agents Act, Thien could have been fined up to $75,000 for each of the offences and a jail term of up to three years, or both. 

In October 2017, Thien contacted a property agent via the online marketplace Carousell and SMS messages, introducing herself as a part-time property agent.

She asked him to co-broke on a rental transaction for a room in a Housing Board flat in Punggol, which he had advertised on Carousell.

In her messages to the property agent, she said that she had prospective tenants whom she could introduce to him and asked to share 50 per cent of the commission that he would receive from his clients upon closing the transaction.

Acting on information received, the CEA then conducted surveillance on Thien's online accounts, and found that she had represented herself as a part-time agent to family members of another flat in Punggol, as well as prospective tenants.

She had also contacted the flat owner's family member through a Carousell listing of the room rental, and wanted to charge the owner 25 per cent of a month's rental as commission if she closed the transaction.

In the next two months, Thien also assisted another landlord to rent out a room at a HDB flat in Sengkang.

After advertising the room on Facebook, she introduced the tenant to the landlord, facilitated the lease of the property and received a commission of $137.50 from the landlord.

During these instances, she was not an estate agent licensed by the CEA.

The CEA has advised consumers to engage only property agencies and agents licensed and registered with the CEA.

The public can verify whether a firm or individual is licensed or registered via the public register on the CEA website.

When responding to online advertisements, consumers should also check whether they are liaising with the owner directly or with the property agent representing the owner.

A property agent is required to display his registration number in online advertisements, and consumers should exercise caution if the registration number is not displayed, said the CEA.