A Professional Standards Scheme is a legal instrument that binds an association to monitor, enforce and improve the professional standards of their members and protect consumers of professional services. The association must be approved by the Professional Standards
Councils to represent their members as professionals for the purposes of professional standards legislation. In return for certain commitments, the Professional Standards Scheme caps the civil liability or damages that professionals taking part in the association’s scheme may be required to pay.
“In the case of our industry, the Real Estate Institute of Australia will be the entity responsible for the Professional Standards Scheme,” Mr Cunningham explained. “They will, in cooperation with state and territory Real Estate Institutes, expect and enforce high standards of practice by those members who achieve professional status.
“Through the Professional Standards Scheme, and via REIA as the professional entity, we’ll be able to implement a range of measures to improve professional standards – from effective risk management strategies and CPD programs to codes of ethics and integrity systems.”
"REIA will, in cooperation with state and territory REI's, expect and enforce high standards of practice by those members who achieve professional status".
Making co-regulation a reality
Improving professional standards has been high on REINSW’s lobbying agenda for years and the Institute has been pushing to revamp the industry’s regulatory environment through the introduction of co-regulation.
“Under a Professional Standards Scheme, we’ll effectively be working in a co-regulatory environment,” Mr Cunningham said. “We’ve long held the view that REINSW can make a valuable contribution to the regulatory environment and professional conduct of real estate agents.
The beauty of a Professional Standards Scheme is that co-regulation will happen.
“Key to co-regulation in a professional environment is ensuring a two-way flow of information and knowledge between the regulator and practising agents,” Mr Cunningham explained. “Co-regulation generates a far better regulatory environment that can more effectively respond to the issues facing contemporary real estate practice.
“In New South Wales, REINSW will be actively involved in developing and maintaining a robust regulatory environment.
“Our proximity to the everyday challenges and issues facing the industry and profession gives us a unique insight and understanding of the needs of agents, consumers and the market. This puts us in a prime position to assist the regulator to make decisions that better reflect the contemporary issues facing the industry and to effectively communicate regulatory obligations to the profession.”
Moreover, Mr Cunningham explained, REINSW is in the position to respond more quickly to emerging trends and changing consumer expectations.
“The government machine is a slow and unwieldy beast. Getting any sort of reform through the bureaucratic red tape can take years. But REINSW, under the umbrella of REIA and the Professional Standards Scheme, will be able to ensure professional agents are responding to what’s happening ‘on the ground’ by adjusting standards and training as required, and monitoring behaviour accordingly.”
Acting on complaints and being able to take disciplinary action will be an important part of REINSW’s role.
“Let’s be honest, we’re currently a bit ‘toothless’. We rely on the regulator to have the teeth,” Mr Cunningham lamented. “But they’re just not as steeped in the industry as we are and there can be a tendency for the regulator to focus on the wrong issues, rather than tackle the ones that really matter.
“Working with REIA as the professional entity, a Professional Standards Scheme will allow REINSW to take a more active and meaningful role in not just enforcing standards, but also improving them.”
"Working with REIA as the professional entity, a Professional Standards Scheme will allow REINSW to take a more active and meaningful role in not just enforcing standards, but also improving them".
Improving transparency for consumers
One of the criticisms often levelled at real estate agents is that there’s a lack of transparency.
“Far too often there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors,” Mr Cunningham said. “Consumers crave transparency. They want to understand what they can expect from their agent at every stage of the real estate transaction and they want to know that the information they’re receiving is true and correct.”
Mr Cunningham explained that REIA, as part of the push towards professional recognition, is building a comprehensive online knowledge hub for consumers.
“The aim is to ‘pull back the curtain’ on all things real estate,” he said. “It will provide transparency across all areas of the property industry – sales, leasing, commercial, strata and more.
“Consumers will find the answers to all their questions and will know what they should expect from their agent. Then, when they deal with an agent who acts in compliance with what is set out in the knowledge hub, they can be secure in the knowledge that the agent is a professional acting transparently.
“It will be our industry’s ‘axis of truth’.”
“REINSW, together with REIA, is focused on driving professionalism in the real estate industry,” Mr Cunningham said. “In the coming months, we’ll be working closely with REIA and our members to ensure the most appropriate framework is in place so our application to the Professional Standards Councils for recognition as a profession is successful.
“We’ll be collaborating with REINSW members to bring about positive change for our industry and we’re looking forward to being able to provide them with a clear pathway to become professional members of REIA.”
"We'll be collaborating with REINSW members to bring about positive change for our industry and we're looking forward to being able to provide them with a clear pathway to become professional members of REIA".