We listen to you. They listen to us.

November/December 2016 edition

Lobbying on behalf of members about the issues that matter is at the core of REINSW’s value proposition – and 2016 has undoubtedly been a defining year. Here’s our lobbying report card for the past 12 months.

By Cath Dickinson

REINSW President John Cunningham firmly believes that 2016 has been a defining year when it comes to lobbying. “We’ve really been able to step things up,” he said. “All of the groundwork we’ve laid over the course of many years is definitely paying off.


“We have the ear of government. They see us as a significant force when it comes to industry issues and they recognise us as the go-to body for input on all things real estate.

“When we speak, they listen.”

John points to the raft of lobbying achievements over the course of the last 12 months as evidence of REINSW’s ever-increasing level of influence.

“This year we’ve achieved some significant wins on behalf of our members,” he said. “Through our focused efforts, we’ve fought back a range of proposals that would have delivered poor outcomes for our industry. And I’m confident 2017 will see us achieve even more.”

Here’s a summary of just some of the issues REINSW has been working on over the past year, what we’ve achieved and what’s still to come.


“As the peak industry body for real estate in NSW, it’s critical that we’re clear about what we’re trying to achieve,” John Cunningham said. “That’s why our approach to lobbying is firmly focused on collaboration and influence.”
  • We actively consult with members at every opportunity to ensure buy-in and engagement on all issues.
  • We encourage all industry stakeholders to contribute to our policy agenda as a means of bringing the industry together.
  • We demonstrate how our policy agenda benefits all parties, including our members, the wider industry and the community.
  • We broadly and proudly promote our policy agenda, so our position is well understood.

  • We act collectively, so we can leverage the power of our industry as a whole.
  • We proactively participate in policy discussions with government and propose meaningful and workable solutions.
  • We leverage the power of our knowledge, reputation and influence to achieve the best outcomes.
  • We seek to build strong relationships with all stakeholders to enhance the effectiveness of our lobbying efforts.
  • We continuously work to improve our status as an influential lobbying group.


According to John Cunningham, our future is in our own hands. “If we choose to elevate ourselves by raising our standards of education and lifting the level of service we provide to our clients, and thereby improve consumer opinion, we can position ourselves at a professional level,” he explained.

Education standards

GOAL: To increase qualification and education requirements across the industry.

PROGRESS: Improving the standard of real estate practice through better education, robust licensing requirements and targeted ongoing training has been high on REINSW’s lobbying agenda for many years.

“For far too long we’ve allowed the government to ‘dumb down’ education standards,” John said. “This has led to agents being able to enter and remain in the industry without the required skills and knowledge to operate as a competent professional. It’s just not right – in fact, it’s outright dangerous.

“The current training regime, where you can complete an entry-level course in just a few days and practically no one fails, has had the adverse effect of diluting the aggregate skills and competencies of agents to the detriment of the property consumer.”

In late 2015, the NSW Government commissioned an independent panel to perform a review of existing training standards. “In our submission to the review, REINSW strongly advocated for a range of reforms aimed at substantially improving the education standards of agents in NSW,” John said.

REINSW proposed the following framework:

  • Certificate of Registration – New entrants will be required to successfully complete seven units of competence from the Certificate IV in Property Services (Real Estate) in order to be entitled to apply for a provisional Certificate of Registration. Before being able to apply for removal of the provisional notation on their certificate, they’ll then have two years to complete the remaining units of competence from the Certificate IV while working in the industry and gaining on-the-job experience.
  • Licence – To be eligible to apply for a Real Estate Licence, agents will be required to complete a Diploma in Property Services (Agency Management). In addition, recognising the specialised skills the owner of a real estate business needs, licence holders will need to demonstrate that they have a minimum of two years’ experience working under the supervision of another licensed agent. They’ll also be required to undergo additional business-focused training.
  • Ongoing training – All certificate and licence holders should be required to undertake compulsory ongoing training focused on compliance and the legislative environment. Unlike the current CPD regime, this system will be better structured and more closely policed.

“We’ve spent a lot of time discussing our proposed training framework with both NSW Fair Trading and the Minister for Innovation & Better Regulation, Victor Dominello,” John said. “The Minister recognises that there’s a clear need to raise education standards.

On 5 November 2016, the Minister announced a reform package incorporating many of our recommended changes and we’re looking forward to working hand-in-hand with the government as we navigate the path forward.”

The government called for feedback about its reform package; the deadline of submissions was 5 December 2016. “We lodged a submission of support on all the reforms,” John said.

To view a copy of REINSW’s submissions, go to reinsw.com.au/submissions

Professional standards
GOAL: To raise the level of professionalism across the industry.

PROGRESS: “The word ‘profession’ is more than just a label,” John said. “It means something. And that’s why REINSW is on a mission to have real estate agents formally recognised as a profession.”

The REINSW Board has met with the Professional Standards Council (PSC) to explore the pathway to professional recognition. The PSC is the independent body responsible for promoting professional standards and consumer protection, and they do this through leadership and education, and the approval, monitoring and enforcing of Professional Standards Schemes.

“The PSC has clear standards defining what is and what is not a profession,” John explained. “We’ll be working closely with the PSC and members to ensure we meet those standards.

“We’re under threat from all angles and in order to counter these threats we need to start thinking of ourselves differently – not as an industry, but as a profession.

“To survive, we need to think and act differently. We can’t afford to retain the status quo and simply do things the same way we’ve always done them. That says loud and clear that we’re no more than mediocre.”

John knows it will be a long road. “It will take time to change hearts and minds, but it’s something we’re determined to achieve.”


"As the only industry body that represents agents from all areas of real estate practice, we need to have our finger on the pulse of a broad range of issues,” John Cunningham said. “We’re here for all our members and will always do everything we can to champion their interests and actively lobby for a better and more effective regulatory environment.”

Commercial licensing exemption
Back in 2014, REINSW persuaded the NSW Government to abandon their plans to delicense commercial agents. We argued that de-licensing opens up the market to people who do not have the required training or experience. Unfortunately, it seemed inevitable that the issue would again rear its head. And it did.

The new Property, Stock and Business Agents Amendment (Property Reports and Exemption) Regulation 2016, which commenced operation on 15 August 2016, included a licensing exemption for agents carrying out certain types of commercial agency work.

OUTCOME: Despite REINSW’s efforts, it was clear that the government was not going to change its mind on this issue. However, REINSW did convince the government to increase the exemption threshold for properties valued at $10 million to those valued at $40 million. While this was not the ultimate outcome REINSW was initially aiming for, it’s certainly better than that which was initially proposed by the government.

Foreign resident capital gains tax withholding regime
A new withholding regime came into force from 1 July 2016. Where a foreign resident sells a property for $2 million or more the purchaser must withhold 10 per cent of the purchase price and pay that amount to the Australian Taxation Office, unless the vendor provides a clearance certificate to the purchaser on or before the settlement of the transaction. Where a clearance certificate is provided, the purchaser is not required to withhold an amount from the purchase price.

The original proposal was that the clearance certificate would need to be provided at the time of exchange of contracts.

OUTCOME: The clearance certificate does not need to be provided at the time of exchange of contracts. REINSW, working together with REIA, was successful in ensuring that the clearance certificate may now be provided at any time up to and including settlement.

Planning reform
Reform of the NSW planning system has long been on REINSW’s lobbying agenda. In 2010, REINSW first put it’s Real Planning Policy together, which focuses on creating a more workable, less bureaucratic planning system. Since then, the policy has been one of the cornerstones of REINSW’s lobbying agenda.

Planning processes are currently convoluted. The development approval system in NSW is regularly described as “not yes”, “not no”, but “maybe”. There is all too often uncertainty of what can and can’t be constructed in a given area. This lack of certainty means that development consent is a journey with an unknown destination. The market needs certainty.

Recent council amalgamations have now added yet another layer of complication.

PROGRESS: REINSW is taking an active role in ensuring the government takes the changing needs of property consumers into account as part of the new state planning policies that are currently under review. The new amalgamated councils are waiting on these policies so they can create their new Local Environment Plans. Some of REINSW’s suggestions have already been incorporated into the review and while it will be some time before there is any resolution, we’ll continue to lobby to secure the best possible outcomes and will be making another formal submission to the government before the end of the year.

Residential Tenancies Act review
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 introduced significant changes to the regulation of residential tenancies in NSW. Now, a little more than five years on, it’s time to review the Act with a view to ensuring the right laws are in place to manage future developments in this vital area of real estate practice.

In June 2015, knowing that the mandated five-year review of the Act was imminent, the REINSW Property Management Committee took the decision to get ahead of the game. They formed a dedicated sub-committee to comprehensively review the Act and recommend changes. By the time the government’s Discussion Paper was released at the end of October 2015, the sub-committee had already completed a detailed list of recommendations.

PROGRESS: REINSW used the sub-committee’s work to form the basis of its submission in response to the Discussion Paper. Due to the many months of work by the sub-committee, the resulting submission not only addresses the specific points set out in the Discussion Paper, but goes much further. It provides the government with a detailed account of the changes that need to be made to the Act to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for all parties involved in the transaction.

To view a copy of REINSW’s submission, go to reinsw.com.au/submissions

Strata reform
It took five years, three false starts and 3000 public and professional submissions, but strata reforms are now due to commence. The reforms encompass more than 90 changes.

More than two million people live and work in strata buildings in NSW and the new laws will cater for the needs of 21st century strata living.

OUTCOME: The new reforms commenced on 30 November 2016 (other than the Building Defect Bond Scheme reforms, which commence on 1 July 2017). Over the course of the reform process, REINSW was in constant communication with the government – attending consultation meetings, lodging submissions and more. Without our efforts the final reform package would have been vastly different, causing many problems for strata managers and consumers alike.

To find out more about the reforms, click here >>>

Swimming pools
After a series of false starts and delays over several years, the new swimming pool compliance laws finally commenced on 29 April 2016. As they stood, the new laws meant that properties in NSW with a swimming pool or spa could not be sold or leased without a valid certificate of compliance or relevant occupation certificate.

With the drastic shortage of swimming pool certifiers and the extremely high rate of first inspection non-compliance, implementation of the laws as they stood would have resulted in a drastic slowdown in property sales.

OUTCOME: Following intensive lobbying from REINSW, amendments were made to the Regulation allowing vendors to attach a certificate of non-compliance to the contract for sale. This means that the sale can proceed and requires the purchaser to complete any remedial work within 90 days of settlement. 

To find out more about the new swimming pool laws, click here >>>

Complaints register
NSW Fair Trading launched the Complaints Register in August 2016. The register lists businesses that are the subject of 10 or more complaints in a calendar month. The stated aim of the register is to encourage businesses to provide better customer service and help consumers make more educated decisions about the businesses they deal with.

At a superficial level, the register is a good idea and REINSW fully supports providing consumers with relevant and accurate information so they can make informed choices. Unfortunately, the register is open to abuse and misinterpretation that may mislead consumers and unnecessarily tarnish an agency’s reputation.

REINSW strongly believes that complaints should be properly investigated by Fair Trading before being included on the register. This would ensure the register records accurate complete and useful information.

REINSW also has concerns when it comes to franchisees, marketing groups and co-operative models sharing a brand, as the register groups these for the purposes of recording complaints. This means that all agencies operating under a franchise brand are effectively tarred with the same brush as the few agencies under the same franchise umbrella that have had a complaint made against them.

PROGRESS: REINSW has made it clear to Fair Trading that there are major flaws with the way in which the register currently reports information about complaints. A coalition of franchisors has been formed and is working closely with REINSW to give a voice to the interests of franchisees. REINSW will continue to lobby for essential changes to the way in which complaints are recorded until they are achieved.

Snapshot of some other issues REINSW has been involved with in 2016
  • Asbestos – Clarifying agents’ obligations and responsibilities, and seeking changes so that any property listed on the Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Register is not made available for rent.
  • Consumer law – Addressing the discrepancies between the Australian Consumer Law and the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act (specifically in relation to underquoting, material fact and vendor referral websites).
  • Co-regulation – Championing the implementation of a co-regulation model that sees REINSW and the regulator working together co-operatively to secure a stronger regulatory environment and a prosperous future for the profession.
  • Electronic signatures – Providing clarity for agents about when they can and can’t use electronic signatures on real estate forms and agreements.
  • Retail leases – Bringing about a standard retail lease has been on REINSW’s lobbying agenda for a number of years. After much consultation with REINSW, the government announced amendments to the Retail Leases Act in November 2016 and we’ll continue to work closely with them throughout the reform process.
  • Taxation – Encouraging a sensible debate in relation to the reform of state property taxes (including stamp duty and land tax) that are narrow-based and discriminatory, and have an adverse impact on the property market and health of the NSW economy.
  • Underquoting – Seeking clarity for agents about how to implement the new underquoting laws without creating a massive compliance burden.