Opposition Senator: Many 'horror stories' in real estate

Damian Lyder - Office of the Parliament
Damian Lyder - Office of the Parliament

TEMPORARY Opposition Senator Damian Lyder said there are many "horror stories" associated with the local real estate industry.

He was contributing to debate on The Real Estate Agents Bill in the Senate Wednesday.

He said he was the son of a retired real estate agent who had worked for more than 25 years, and he has heard a number of horror stories from him. He explained that because there was no legislation there have been cases of two agents working together and one unscrupulous agent not fully splitting the commission, and stories of people creating fake identification to match a deed and selling a property via unrecorded cash.

He also said two years ago a colleague who owns a quarry had an unknown party with a deed storm the quarry with armed personnel and take over and put out the rightful owner. He reported the situation took months to rectify with the police and the courts.

"It was a nightmare."

Lyder said his father and other real estate agents had no other guide than the Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA), an unofficial association that has existed for more than 30 years. He supported an earlier call for AREA to be included in the bill.

He also called for the register of real estate agents (which the bill seeks to implement) to be available electronically rather than the inefficient and obsolete system of paying a fee to access it.

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat in his contribution said some of the words associated with local real estate included fraud, incomplete transactions, misrepresentation and misapplication of money. He explained that the bill would work with other land-related legislation to attack fraud in legal matters.

"In any given day (as a minister and as a solicitor) I could tell you about fraud."

He said he was troubled by advertisements on Facebook for land with no Town and Country Planning Division approval and this created chaos in the system, land management and development process.

"(Development) with no Town and Country approval should be an offence punishable with a serious fine."

Rambharat said he would like to see everywhere a parcel of land being cleared, a building constructed or work being done, for a sign to be erected containing information about approvals and the contractor.

Opposition Senator Khadijah Ameen said there are a number of people who do real estate part time, including single mothers, and suggested that these part time people be placed in a separate category.

She also said quite a bit of lands in TT were owned by foreign nationals and this has been an issue highlighted in Tobago. She suggested that real estate agents should have to indicate if the person purchasing a property was a foreign national.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in his winding up said the Opposition made "wild accusations" that Government ministers were involved in development. He said that many members of Parliament, including Opposition members, were developers and both he and Tabaquite MP Surujrattan Rambachan had declared their interests.

Al-Rawi said the bill was meant to capture a number of people breaking the law, not paying their fair share and developing lands without appropriate approvals. He also said the bill will not increase land transaction costs but will regulate the industry to reduce the cost of corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.


"Opposition Senator: Many 'horror stories' in real estate"

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