Expatica news

Alarm over ‘illegal’ real estate agent practices

15 November 2005

BRUSSELS — A conflict has flared in the Belgian real estate sector after federal government allegations that four out of five agents operate illegally.

The conflict was sparked after Consumer Affairs Minister Freya van den Bossche said a clean-up operation will be conducted.

Van Den Bossche pointed to investigation findings that four out of five real estate agents break trading laws and are unjustly charge full commission. Some 430 of the 525 inspected real estate agents will be issued an official warning.

The Socialist SP.A minister said consumer protection authorities will inspect the same firms again in the near future. Those found to still be operating illegally can expect a severe fine and legal proceedings.

She also intends to broaden the scope of inquiries, stressing that if four out of five real estate agents operate illegally, the rest of the sector must be “thoroughly” examined.

However, the Limburg department of the Confederation of Real Estate Agents in Belgium said it will take Van den Bossche to the industrial relations court.

The Limburg chief of the confederation, Luc Machon, said the minister interpreted trading practice laws “exceptionally awkwardly” and damaged the image of real estate agents.

The Limburg department hopes to prove in court the allegations were incorrect, stressing further that neither consumer nor sector interests will benefit from a witch hunt.

Meanwhile, consumer watchdog Test-Aankoop has called for specific legislation regulating the real estate sector. It is in favour of contracts that offer consumers better protection.

It reminded the public about the results of its investigation findings, published 12 months ago. That research also uncovered alarming practices such as exorbitant commissions or speculative valuations.

Test-Aankoop said further the real estate sector had not learned and that discussions between the minister and the sector had not yielded any results. It said the real estate sector had opted for “ostrich politics”.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news