Ghana’s real estate sector has become very dynamic and is viewed as one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy over the past few years. Over the years, the sale of properties in the real estate industry in Ghana has seen exponential growth, particularly due to the increasing housing deficit in the country. The real estate industry in Ghana has come to stay, and this will be the backbone of the economy in some years to come as Ghana’s population increases. This would increase demand for the property.
The growth in the real estate industry has seen the invasion of real estate agents who are not licensed and hence do not provide the services they promise their clients. The real estate act was introduced at the right time to protect clients as this will help streamline the activities of real estate agent and brokers so their clients receive value for their money and investment
In this article, we will focus on how the Ghana real estate act deals with the concern of most key players to the operation of real estate agents and brokers in Ghana.
Under the act, anyone who practices as a real estate agent or broker in Ghana must hold a license. Only licensed real estate agents or brokers can provide real estate services, any form of business that is interconnected with the provision of real estate agency services or engage in real estate transactions. This will help customers to have confidence and establish trust when dealing with licensed real estate agents.
The regulating Council and Board of the real estate sector are mandated to license anyone who wishes to apply to practice as a real estate agent or broker after satisfying all requirements. Persons who can apply for licensing have been categorized into three classifications;
First are lawyers licensed by the General Legal Council to practice in Ghana or valuation and estate surveyors registered by the Ghana Institute of Surveyors. The second group of people is persons who are not residents in Ghana but are licensed real estate brokers or agents in their country of residence. The third category is persons not mentioned above but has passed a qualifying examination conducted by the Board. A person who may have practiced for more than five years before the introduction of the Act may apply to the council as real estate brokers or agent provided, they have no criminal record and have met all tax obligations
All applicants must have a Tax Identification Number (TIN). The license will not be granted to any individual found to have been convicted of an offense that involves fraud, security of the state, moral turpitude or dishonesty. Also before a real estate agent or broker is licensed, the council will perform background checks which include criminal history checks as well as inspecting the residence of the applicant. The council will within 60days license an applicant once it is satisfied with all checks and the license shall be valid for one year and is renewable. License is not transferable and real estate agents or brokers upon applying for a license must have a professional indemnity insurance cover.
Failing to pay money received from a client at most within a month
Paying commission or fees or dividing commission or fees with a person who is not a licensed real estate broker or agent;
Accepting cash payment for the real estate transaction.
If a company, society, association or partnership ceases to have a licensed real estate broker as its designated broker, the company, society, association or partnership’s real estate broker license shall be revoked.
License obtained by fraud
A real estate agent or broker convicted for a serious offense
A real estate agent or broker knowingly making a fraudulent misrepresentation, acting in a dual capacity as a broker and undisclosed principal in the same transaction, acting for more than one party in the same transaction without the consent and knowledge of the parties, commingling the money or property of a property owner with that of theirs (licensee), failed to disclose information on a property which is the subject matter of a transaction, etc.
The Council shall maintain a register of all licensed real estate brokers and agents and this shall be made open for inspection to interested persons at a fee. A list of all licensed real estate brokers and agents who are in good standing will be published in the Gazette annually.
The Council shall have a database on all real estate transactions. This shall contain every licensed real estate broker or agent’s transaction records for at least five (5) years. The database shall be made available upon request in writing to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), and any other relevant institution. Every licensed real estate broker or agent must display his/her license or a certified true copy of it as well as the fees to be charged in his or her office.
Real estate transaction forms shall be introduced by the council and this must be used in all transactions. Also, the agent or broker is to prepare a lease agreement and each party involved should be given a copy
Real estate brokers or agents are expected to submit quarterly reports to the Council detailing each transaction undertaken by the broker or agent. This is done in addition to their reporting obligation under the Anti-Money Laundering Act,2008 (Act 749). liability of one thousand penalty units (a penalty unit is currently GHC 12) will be paid if the mandated report is not submitted.
The following is seen as an offense:
Anybody who advertises as a real estate broker or agent without a license
Any person who engages in a real estate transaction without a license
a person with a license who transfers to another person
any person who falsifies a document under this act obstructs an officer or authorized person of the Council in performing his/her duties
Any person who fails to submit transaction reports
Any real estate agent or broker found guilty is liable on summary conviction to a fine of between five thousand and ten thousand penalty units or a term of imprisonment of between five and ten years or both.
With this Act now in force, people’s confidence in dealing with real estate agents would improve considerably. The days of quacks and unprofessional real estate agents or brokers would now be a thing of the past as we can now rest easy, knowing that you have a law that backs you up.