Real Estate Agents
What is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent or property manager (‘agent’) is a person who is paid to help manage the property on behalf of the landlord. They are legally required to act in the best interests of the landlord, unless it would be against the law to do so.
It is important to understand that you as a tenant have a legal relationship with the landlord, not the agent. The landlord is the one who owns the property and whose house you are living in.
Under the law it is assumed that what an agent knows, the landlord also knows. Therefore, if you tell the agent something, the landlord is also taken to know that information, regardless of whether the agent actually communicated the information to the landlord or not.
In most situations, if an agent breaches the Residential Tenancies Act 1999 (NT) or a term of your lease agreement, it will be considered a breach by the landlord.
I have a problem with my agent, what can I do?
It can be very distressing if you have a bad relationship with your agent. If you have an issue such as asking for repairs or problems with inspections, please see our other factsheets on our website about what you can do.
If you have a problem with your agent, below are 3 ways you can try and resolve the problem.
Make a Complaint to the Real Estate Agency
If you want to complain about the behaviour of an agent, you can write a letter to the principal of the real estate agency. This is the owner or manager of the real estate agency. Your letter should include:
- your name and contact details;
- the name of the agent;
- the address of the property you are renting;
- a clear summary of the complaint, including details of what happened and when;
- any supporting evidence;
- what outcome you are seeking;
- the date by which you are seeking a response to your complaint; and,
- if you feel the REINT Principles of Conduct that have been breached.
The Principles of Conduct requires all agents to:
- have a reasonable knowledge and act in accordance with the law;
- act ethically, fairly and honestly when dealing with landlords and tenants;
- not share confidential or sensitive information obtained while acting on behalf of a client or dealing with a customer, except if required by law;
- attempt to prevent or resolve disputes with the aim of minimising the number of complaints made against them.
Make a Complaint to REINT
Agents who are members of the Real Estate Institute of Northern Territory (‘REINT’) must comply with the Real Estate Institute of Australia’s (‘REIA’) Principles of Conduct. The REINT can tell you if your agent is a member.
If you think your agent has breached the Principles of Conduct, you should write a letter or email to the REINT with details of your complaint.
GPO Box 3869
Darwin NT 0801
Make a Complaint to the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board
Real estate agents in the Northern Territory must hold a licence to work. In order to get this licence, agents must comply with certain rules, known as Rules of Conduct.
If your agent fails to carry out their job with due skill, care or diligence when dealing with any person in the course of their work as a real estate agent, they will be in breach of the rules of conduct (s 65 Agents Licensing Act 1979 (NT)).
If you believe your agent has breached the Rules of Conduct, you should try to resolve the issue by first making a complaint to the real estate agency. If you are unsuccessful or do not get the result you want, you can lodge an application for disciplinary action with the Agents Licensing Board.
Your application should be in writing and include:
- What your agent has done (or not done) that you believe is in breach of the Rules of Conduct;
- Any supporting evidence you have about the breach (eg emails, text messages, photos);
- A statement to say that you believe they have breached section 65 of the Agents Licensing Act
You are encouraged to use the application for disciplinary action template provided by the Agents Licensing Board, available here.
Registrar of Land, Business and Conveyancing Agents
Department of Business
GPO Box 1154
DARWIN NT 0801
Note: The Agents Licensing Board cannot award compensation, but it can issue a caution, fine an agent or suspend or cancel a real estate agent’s licence.
My agent lied to me to get me to sign the lease, what can I do?
If your agent makes a promise or gives you information about a property before you sign the lease agreement that turns out to be false or untrue, they may be liable for misleading and deceptive conduct under Australian Consumer Law.
Misleading or deceptive conduct may include:
- lying or intentionally misleading a tenant;
- encouraging a wrong conclusion;
- providing factually incorrect information that gives a false impression;
- not correcting a misunderstanding;
- not updating information that has changed;
- leaving out or concealing important information;
- making false, exaggerated or inaccurate claims; and
- staying silent about material facts (non-disclosure).
All kinds of conduct and communication are covered including personal discussions, emails, SMS, letters, advertising, and negotiations.
Examples of misleading and deceptive conduct include:
- A property manager pressures a young person renting her first property to sign ‘on the spot’ stating that they have had a lot of enquiries about the property and that she would miss out if the lease was not signed that day. If there have been no enquires at the property, this is misleading conduct.
- At a property viewing, a property manager telling a potential tenant that the entire property is air-conditioned when it is not or only air conditioned in one room.
- An agent does not tell a tenant that there are body corporate rules he will have abide by if he gets the property. The tenant is not provided with a copy or told about the rules before signing the lease agreement.
- A couple is viewing an apartment that they have heard allows them access to a gym. They make comments in front of the agent that they are so excited to use to the gym and say they are going to take this property over another because they want to use the gym. The agent stays silent and does not tell them that there is no longer a gym in the apartment complex and it has been turned into storage space.
If you believe your agent has engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, you can make a formal complaint to Consumer Affairs by lodging a complaint form. Before you lodge a complaint, you must first try and resolve the dispute yourself by writing to the agent. If you are unable to reach a solution you can proceed to Consumer Affairs and provide evidence that you tried to resolve the dispute yourself.
Darwin Community Legal Service 2019: Non-profit community groups have permission to reproduce parts of this publication as long as the original meaning is retained and proper credit is given to DCLS, as the publisher.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is a guide to the law in the Northern Territory. It is not a substitute for legal advice. You should talk to a lawyer about your particular legal issue. The information contained in this factsheet is current as at November 2019.