REI ACT chief executive Ron Bell. Photo: Lyn Mills
The real estate industry in the ACT is set to fight changes under proposed national licensing reform it believes will dumb down the sector.
The local Real Estate Institute has sent letters to all agency principals in Canberra urging them to sign a petition against the changes.
While it supports of the idea of national licensing for the industry, the institute is concerned about two aspects of the Council of Australian Governments' proposal: the setting of qualification levels for positions including real estate agents and the removal of compulsory continuing professional development.
The concerns are echoed by the Real Estate Institute of Australia and the other state counterparts.
The ACT government previously reserved its position on signing up to the reform, citing concerns about the cost-benefit of national licensing for the territory.
REI ACT chief executive officer Ron Bell said the changes would increase complaints about agents to the ACT government's Office of Regulatory Services and encourage "rogue cowboys" to operate in the industry.
"The COAG decision that came down really dumbed down the profession - just about anybody could come along and be a real estate agent," he said.
"It really means that government is going to see a huge increase in the number of complaints."
He said complaints were rarely made in the territory and those lodged usually related to property management.
Mr Bell said he had received a strong response to the letter from agency principals in the ACT, with the majority opposing the changes.
COAG handed down the decision regulation impact statement for the proposed national licensing of property occupations in late July.
The proposal includes a set national qualification level for real estate agents, business agents and strata managing agents, plus auctioneers and agents' representatives. Continuing professional development would be undertaken on an as-needs basis, rather than the current mandatory system.
The move is part of the national licensing of a raft of occupations currently operating under different state and territory legislation.
COAG signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2009 to establish a national occupational licensing system.
A decision on the licensing components will be made this year, following the outcome of additional consultation in each state and territory.
Principal of LJ Hooker Manuka Stephen Thompson said he backed a national licensing system for the industry but believed the harder it was to be qualified as an agent, the better.
He said the professionalism, accountability and transparency of the industry had increased greatly over the past five years in the ACT.
Improvements included banning the practice of dummy bidding in the territory, which made auctions a lot more transparent.
"It used to be that if you had a heartbeat and didn't have a criminal record you could sell houses," he said.
But now it was a career, not just a job to try out, Mr Thompson said.
A spokesman for ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr said the territory was seeking the advice of key local representative organisations through a targeted consultation process before making a decision whether to sign up to the reform.
He said the preferred options in the document did not necessarily reflect the government's position on national occupational licensing reform.