THE Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia (BOVAEA) has warned the public to beware of con artists posing as real estate negotiators.
The board said the scams had come to light following a spate of complaints and Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents past president Siva Shanker said desperate property owners looking to sell their assets were especially vulnerable.
“The property market is slowing down and from experience, victims of real estate cheating cases are usually high during such times,” said Siva.
Siva cited an incident involving a shop owner in the Klang Valley who had been approached by a conman who claimed that a pharmacy was interested in renting his property.
“The guy even brought along someone who purportedly represented the pharmacy.
“So, a tenancy agreement was drawn up and the so-called broker then handed over a cheque for the rental deposit and asked for his commission.
“In good faith, the owner paid him.
“But when he tried to bank in the cheque, it bounced.
“By this time, the pharmacy representative and broker had disappeared,” said Siva.
Real estate is often a favoured target for unscrupulous individuals because they can get away with large sums of money.
“In rental deals, the standard commission fee charged by a licensed agent is 1.25 months of rent.
“So imagine if the rental for a shophouse is RM10,000 a month, a genuine agent who will ensure the deal will go through will receive RM12,500.
“But when people deal with unregistered and unlicensed agents, that’s where the trouble starts,” said Siva.
Estate Agency Practice Committee chairman Eric Lim, who has been lobbying for stricter enforcement for the past 20 years, was not surprised the scammers had become bolder.
The latest trick sees these bogus agents using fake identification from well-known agencies to hoodwink their victims.
“We have not found any of these fake ID tags yet.
“What we have for now are verbal reports from BOVAEA members whose company names had been used in fraudulent transactions,” said Lim.
Another BOVAEA member K. Soma Sundram said he received feedback from negotiators that newly developed areas in Puchong were being taken over by thugs who rough up real estate agents who come to “their area”.
“From what we have heard, these are illegal moneylenders who will scout for property owners.
“They will then get the owners to give them instructions to either sub-sell or find a tenant for the property.
“They will even do the renovations but as they are not licensed real estate agents, it will be hard to hold them accountable should anything go wrong,” said Soma.
The surest way the public can protect themselves from real estate scams is to deal exclusively with bona fide agents, said Tunku Fauzi Malek, a BOVAEA member.
“All negotiators will have an REN (Real Estate Negotiator) number.
“This will appear in all their advertisements so the public can verify their identities with BOVAEA,” said Tunku Fauzi.
He cautioned the public to be extra careful when it came to answering adverts that were illegally placed on tree trunks and lamp posts as this was usually the first step used to lure victims.
In Malaysia, licensed valuers, appraisers and estate agents are protected under Act 242. Unauthorised persons guilty of impersonating a registered valuer, appraiser or estate agent are liable to fined RM25,000 or jailed for up to three years or both, with a further penalty of RM500 for each day the offence continues.