Estate agents set to need licences by 2021

construction site
Miguela Xuereb

Real estate agents and others working in the property sector will have to be licensed by the end of 2021 under a proposed law approved by Parliament this evening.

The proposed legislation is largely meant to target money laundering, and is being introduced ahead of a deadline set by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body. Moneyval has threatened to blacklist Malta should it fail to address various shortcomings in its anti-money laundering efforts.

The bill would require the licensing of real estate agents, property brokers, branch managers and property consultants, though it provides an exception for those who act as intermediaries on an occasional basis as long as they do not advertise their services.

Licences would only be given to those aged 18 and over, who hold a certificate in real estate or equivalent qualifications, and would need to be renewed every five years. Those who operate without a licence after the end of 2021 would risk being fined €20,000.

The licences would be the responsibility of a licensing board, which would be presided over by an advocate and which would also include 4 persons “of known integrity.”

Inaction on money laundering forced government’s hand – Vassallo

In his contribution to debate on the bill, PN MP Edwin Vassallo highlighted that the law itself would not translate into any noticeable improvements for people buying or selling property, and neither would it help improve standards in the construction industry.

The government, he said, was ultimately forced to introduce the licences because of its continued inaction on money laundering.

The former parliamentary secretary for small businesses noted that previous governments had sought to remove the need for licences to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on business, but this government was forced to change course and introduce licences where none were once required.

However, Parliamentary Secretary for Construction Chris Agius, while acknowledging that the bill sought to strengthen Malta’s anti-money laundering efforts, introduced reforms that have long been sought by the property sector itself.