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Former BREA president blasts association

A former president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association(BREA)has levied a number of criticisms against the association in a press statement and subsequent interview withGuardian Businessyesterday.

Pat Strachan, a two-term former BREA president, is calling for an amendment to the Real Estate Brokers and Salesman Act(1995), saying that the government erred in incorporating BREA into the Real Estate Board, according to the press release.

“In all jurisdictions where the real estate profession is legislated, the Real Estate Board or the body responsible for regulating by law the profession of real estate is appointed by the government and the association officers are elected by its members,”read the release.

The statement called for the attorney general to’do the right thing’by amending the act, saying that the government should appoint members to the BREA board. Strachan said that anything short of a separation between the chairman of the Real Estate Board and the president of BREA represented a conflict of interest.

Among the provisions of the act, the Real Estate Board is empowered to”consider and determine registration as real estate brokers and real estate salesmen, enrolment as members of the association and licenses and renewal of licenses to engage in the practice of real estate business as real estate brokers and real estate salesmen.”

If the board is made up from BREA’s leadership and is designed to control things like association membership, it may present the real question of whether or not there is sufficient independence between the two bodies.

“The regulatory board responsible for issuing licences should not be a part of the general membership,”Strachan said.

Current BREA President Patti Birch toldGuardian Businessyesterday that she saw no conflict of interest, in principal or in practice.

“If there is a group of people in membership who are dissatisfied with the board, they can nominate a broker member and elect the person to represent their unheard interests on the board,”Birch said.

Birch expressed thanks for the years of leadership Strachan provided BREA, and said that his feedback and contributions to BREA are appreciated. She also said the act is now about 16 years old and may benefit from a review and updates as necessary.

Strachan went further with his charges, however, saying that in publishing the names of unlicensed persons BREA may have been acting unfairly and unconstitutionally.

“What is unlawful is that BREA has been publishing the names of persons who have not paid(license fees)by December 31st. Not only is that illegal but it gives the impression that the individual may have committed an unethical act,”the statement read.

Strachan explained that he would prefer to see only the list of licensees published, as many conditions may have led to a licensee not paying fees and there may be damage to a person’s reputation through such publication.

Birch, however, said that there were several factual errors in the statement regarding this practice. First, she explained that December 31 is not the trigger date for publishing unlicensed members. December 31 is when licenses granted during a year expire, but members have six months after the fee is due to make their membership payment. After January 1 of the following year the association’s paying licensees should be published. She said that after July 1st the association had the legal right to publish those who are, or are not licenced.

“After June we publish those who have not paid, because according to the Real Estate Act, section 16, the board shall cause to be published in a gazette after the 1st day of July a list containing the names and addresses of every real estate broker or real estate salesman registered, or who ceased to be registered, between the 1st day of January and such 1st day of July,”Birch said.

Since the legislation gave the authority to publish those who ceased to be licensed, Birch said it was well within the law.

The association between the Real Estate Board and BREA’s Multiple Listing Service(MLS)also came under attack from Strachan.

“I happen to know that members’license dues are being used to finance the MLS. I know that for a fact,”Strachan said.

The appropriate practice would be for the MLS to be a separate private entity which members could opt to participate and invest in if they chose, Strachan said, adding that the practice is not in line with any other jurisdiction that regulates the profession. The problem though really came back to the relationship between the board and the association for Strachan. An association’s charges may justify MLS costs, but not a board’s membership fees.

Franon Wilson, who chairs the MLS committee for BREA, said,”As a past president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association, all members have a tremendous amount of respect for the work and sacrifices past president Pat Strachan would have made to help our organization to be where it is today.

“As chairman of the MLS committee, I look forward to speaking to past President Strachan to clear up a few misconceptions.”

Strachan also raised issues about BREA’s practice of requiring appraisers to have professional indemnity insurance, saying”this may be an unlawful act carried out by the board to insist that its members have the insurance before they can be licensed.”

Birch clarified that BREA does not license agents for appraisal, but did publish a list of approved appraisers. While she said a licensee may perform valuations for the public, she said BREA’s standard for being on its approved list was successful completion of a two-week course, an apprenticeship period under an appraisal specialist, and$250,000 indemnity insurance. She said these were good measures which protected the public.

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