Standards - Real Estate Act 1995

Real Estate (Brokers and Salesmen) Act, 1995

By David Morley

The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) strives to foster, promote and maintain high ethical and professional standards of conduct for its members. On January 2nd, 1996, the Parliament of The Bahamas realized the efforts of BREA and the necessity to regulate the real estate profession by enacting the Real Estate (Brokers and Salesman) Act, 1995.

The Act incorporates BREA, provides for the registration, licensing and membership of individuals as real estate brokers and salesmen, and empowers BREA to regulate and control the practice of real estate in The Bahamas.

Engagement vs Non-engagement

A person engages in the practice of real estate business if such a person receives or is to receive compensation or valuable consideration for services rendered or attempts or agrees to offer services to appraise, auction, negotiate the sale of, exchange, purchase, management or lease of any land or otherwise functions as a real estate broker or salesman in relation to any land, advertises or holds out by any representation to any other person. A person also engages in the practice of real estate business if such person takes any part in procuring of prospects, sellers, purchasers, landlords or tenants in any land transaction. Owners and developers may, however sell their own property.

A person shall not be regarded as engaging in the practice of the real estate business if in the scope of that person's employment or profession, such a person does not accept a commission or payment for services rendered in addition to payment received in the ordinary course of that person's employment or profession.

Any person found guilty of engaging in the practice of real estate business without a valid license, or any licensed real estate broker found guilty of employing an unlicensed person to engage in such business, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine or to imprisonment or both.

Registration, Licensing, Membership

Once BREA is satisfied that an applicant has complied with and is qualified under the provisions of the Act, BREA will either: (a) unconditionally approve the registration, license and membership of the applicant as a real estate broker or salesman, or (b) conditionally approve the registration, license and membership of the applicant as a real estate appraiser, auctioneer or developer.

BREA & "The Board"

Annually a Board of Directors and Officers is elected by its licensed members, and such Board is empowered by the Act to regulate and control the real estate business and to enforce the provisions of the Act on its licensed members.

To promote and maintain high ethical standards of conduct between its licensed members and the general public, the Board offers courses in real estate business to all BREA licensed members. The Board also conducts a real estate course and examination as a prerequisite, for those persons wishing to enter into the real estate profession.

By empowering the Board with such duties, the Act enables the Board to generally take lawful measures to carry out its functions and to protect the mutual interests of the general public.

Investigations & Discipline

The Act provides for the establishment of both an Investigation Committee and a Disciplinary Committee. The members of each committee are appointed by the Attorney General of The Bahamas.

The purpose of the Investigation Committee is to receive written complaints of professional misconduct and to afford hearings to any BREA licensed members or any other persons who may have submitted such a complaint. It is the function of the Investigation Committee to decide whether a complaint ought to be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the act.

Upon hearing of any complaint against a person, the Disciplinary Committee makes recommendations to the Board on each complaint. The Board, acting on recommendations from the Committee, shall either dismiss the complaint or make an order of a disciplinary nature whereby the person's registration, license, and membership may be cancelled, suspended or censured.

For example, should it be found that a BREA licensed member falsely procured his/ her license and registration under the Act, or should a licensed BREA member be convicted of an offense under the Act, or convicted of any offense involving fraud or dishonesty, then the Board can cancel, suspend, or censure the registration, license, and membership of that BREA licensed member.

Should any party be aggrieved by a decision of the Board, then within three months after the decision of the Board the aggrieved party may appeal against the decision of the Board to the Supreme Court. However no further appeal shall be allowed from the decision of the Supreme Court.

If the license or registration of any BREA member has been suspended or revoked by the Board, the Board may require such person to return his/her registration, license and membership certificates. Any person who shall fail this shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine or imprisonment or both.

Clients' Money / Clients' Account

The Act requires every real estate broker to maintain a client's account at an authorized financial institution. Every real estate broker or salesman who receives a client's money is required without delay to pay or deposit such money into this account. Such money shall not be available for payment of any debt or liability of the real estate broker or salesman, or to any person other than the person for whom the money is being held in trust.

Conclusion

This article is only intended to give the reader a general overview of important provisions of the Act with respect to licensing, discipline, clients' money and the powers of the Board. Therefore, any specific references to these provisions should be referred to the Act. The purpose of the Act is to: (i) empower the Board to regulate and control the business of real estate in The Bahamas, (ii) to empower the board to conduct such examinations and courses as it deems necessary to promote and maintain high ethical and professional standards of conduct between BREA licensed members and the general public in real estate transactions, and most importantly, (iii) to give the general public the assurance and understanding that all BREA licensed real estate brokers and salesmen are professional, accountable and liable under the provisions of the Real Estate (Brokers and Salesmen) Act, 1995.

Use of the Word Realtor® and Other Designations

The Bahamas recognizes US copyright Law. The word Realtor® is a copyrighted trademark of the National Association of Realtors®. NAR has successfully taken their sole right of its use all the way to the US Supreme Court. Any member of an affiliate association, such as BREA is entitled to join NAR. Then and, only then, will you have right use the word Realtor®. Unless this applies to you, you are breaking the law when you refer to yourself as a Realtor®, when you use in it your promotional materials or use it on your website. Similarly, BREA licensed agents are welcome to join the Council of Certified Residential specialists, the CIPS Council, etc. This alone does not give you the right to use these designations. Only if you have completed the course work and electives, submitted your application and received written confirmation of achieving your designation, can you use any of them.

Your BREA dues must be current to maintain any designation.