Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reason 0030 : Unethical Real Estate Agents (ERA Realty Network)

A real estate agent from ERA Realty Network, Jeremy Ang, helped sell his clients' flat in Riverside Piazza (above) to his boss' wife.

The boss of the agent, ERA Senior agent Mike Parikh, had got his wife Madam Sadiq to buy a flat sold by his subordinate and Madam Sadiq had re-sold it almost immediately for $945,000, making a hefty profit of $257,000 in the process.

The two ERA agents were slammed by High Court Judge Choo Han Teck for their unethical behaviour in the transaction of a two-bedroom downtown flat. He found that the conduct of agent Jeremy Ang and his boss, Mr Mike Parikh, senior group division director at ERA, amounted to breach of duty and fraud.

Justice Choo rejected the testimony of ERA's top brass - president Jack Chua and senior vice-president Marcus Chu - that the two men had done nothing wrong. The judge said it was clear why they thought so - Mr Chu admitted in court that he and others in the company, as well as agents in other companies, had done the same thing.

Justice Choo also rejected arguments by ERA that it was not liable for the actions of its agents, who are 'independent contractors'. The option form had ERA's logo printed on it; the commission agreement was between Madam Wong and ERA; and the newspaper advertisements sought to persuade the public that they would have the backing of the company and its network by engaging an ERA agent. It was also ERA - not Mr Ang - which took the couple to the Small Claims Tribunal when they refused to pay the commission on the sale.

However, less than 24 hours after the court's ruling against it, ERA swung full force into damage control mode.

ERA will now require all agents to sign an undertaking at the start of each sale transaction, assuring customers that all possible conflicts of interest will be 'properly disclosed to the best of the agent's knowledge', ERA said in a press release on Saturday.

ERA will also put implement an 'extended' code of ethics for agents and customers, ERA president Jack Chua said. This will be finalised within the next three months. The other measures will come into effect immediately, he added. ERA held a special meeting yesterday morning to brief all its agents on the new procedures.

What is most disturbing about this incident is that ERA's top brass - president Jack Chua and senior vice-president Marcus Chu - felt that nothing wrong has been done and also that Mr Chu admitted that he and others in ERA, as well as agents in other companies, had done the same thing.

The fact that many agents are doing it does not make this despicable act any less wrong. This is a clear case of fraud with premediated intention to deceive and the responsible parties should be jailed if possible.

What is even more telling that right after president Jack Chua said no wrong doing has occurred, ERA had implemented stricter ethics guidelines for all of its agents. This, coupled with Mr Chu's admission that he too had flipped properties in this way, serves to cement the impression much better than any court ruling could, how lacking ERA agents are in ethics.


Anonymous said...

I really do not understand why Singapore comes up with this ERA service for renting rooms. Each time I want to look for a room, I have to go through these agents and pay them half a month as commission. I try not to move too many times to avoid this additional costs. The rent in Singapore is already rocket high and they even charge us for helping us to look for rooms? I can look for rooms myself now that everyone is internet savvy, thank you very much. Still, this agents will spam the web with their advertisements. Oh my god, this is terrible. I understand if you want to rent a house/apartment, we render the service of this agents but it's just a freaking room. Why are they making so much profit from doing nothing other than just preparing the contract?

Anonymous said...

This piece of contract is either to protect or your landlord when certain unforeseen circumstances or situation takes place. For instance, when a landlord is having difficulties collecting rent from the tenant, the contract will have clear indications of steps to be taken and will be a strong support against such tenant.

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