New Property Agents Legislation an Important Milestone

ARAMA and its members have worked with the Queensland government to grow Queensland’s tourist accommodation industry through the creation of a responsible management rights industry that now operates successfully in from the NSW border to Port Douglas.

Today there are more than 5000 resident managers looking after 3600 strata and community title properties, not just in the tourist industry areas, but in the major cities of the state as part of the 21st century lifestyle density living process, now in favour by many Queenslanders.

The new Property Agents Bill legislation divides the responsibilities of the previous Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act into specific categories and provides a clear pathway forward for all property matters.

ARAMA and its members support the initiatives by the government to separate property agents, property auctioneers and resident letting agents into their own act and recognise the need to break down the complexities of PAMDA into separate acts. As a key stakeholder, ARAMA and its members has been involved in the progressive development of the PAMDA legislation, working with the government and the officers of the Department of Fair Trading in developing the strata and community title legislation to remain progressive and relevant to the needs of Queenslanders.

As a result of the ongoing program of regular consultation with the government, a major new industry has been created in Queensland, for the benefit of the tourist industry and in the modern management structures available to owners, investors, holidaymakers and tourists and short and long term tenants. It should be noted that holiday letting of apartments in strata properties is now the largest provider of accommodation for the tourist industry on Queensland and Australia’s east coast.

The properties available provide a wonderful range of property types, from the beachside shack to the five-star resort. Queensland’s tourism industry has been built around that divergent choice that must be preserved to protect tourism which is such an important industry in Queensland.

This new legislation is timely as the Council of Australian Governments has decided to go ahead with the occupational reforms commencing in July next year. The National Occupational Licensing System being developed as a COAG initiative was due to release for industry comment in the first half of July but this has been delayed until later in the year.

There remains some uncertainty regarding the role of RLAs in expected NOLS proposal. Both property owners and RLAs will rely on the Property Agents Act to provide a valid and suitable regime for the licensing of RLAs agents if NOLS fails to provide these provisions.

The Property Agents Bill ensures that each letting agent has an “authority to let” agreement in place with the property owner and both parties understand the responsibilities and potential benefits from that agency relationship. Funds held on behalf of the owner must be held in a trust account subject to audit and annual report to the Office of Fair Trading. If NOLS does not deliver this same protection, the industry will rely on the Queensland government to provide this protection through this new legislation.

We recognise that other states do not have tourism industries that match the diversity provided in Queensland and so NOLS decisions made elsewhere may not reflect the need to provide certainty and security for those who have invested in tourism accommodation. Hence the decision by the Queensland government to continue to maintain this position in the new legislation is applauded by ARAMA as a responsible and sensible initiative.

As the resident managers have developed the industry, the management rights are currently worth an average of $1.4 million in each complex. Hence the industry is worth some $5 billion and relies on the Queensland government through the Property Agents Bill and companion legislation to continue the protection for all stakeholders and deliver a stability to the industry.

We are aware of the protracted negotiations being conducted by COAG and the harmonisation program across a wide range of occupations, including the property industry. While the final NOLS Regulatory Impact Statement is soon to be released, the licensing section is being prepared in states where there is not licensing required for the management rights industry and there is not a tourism industry to protect.

ARAMA is concerned that should the regulated requirements for the management rights industry be abandoned through NOLS, that the successful industry, its major contribution to the tourist industry and its general confidence in strata and community title property management will deteriorate. Under Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s policy statement 140 covering serviced apartments, exemptions are provided for most management rights operators who hold an RLA licence. If this licensing class is abandoned by NOLS, the industry and the 50,000 investors who own strata property in Queensland used for tourism accommodation will lose a major part of their protection. .

We all rely on the Queensland government’s Property Agents Bill to deliver an RLA licence and ensure stability for investors in tourism accommodation. The management rights industry was created by Queensland legislation and the initiative of the legislation has seen the creation of a major industry, responsibly managing more than $50 billion in property.

It is an example of where progressive legislation has allowed an industry to be created and grow and make a real contribution to one of the state’s largest industries with a world wide reputation.

Chris Ward

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