DESPITE the efforts of the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board (REALB) and government to ensure transactions in the real estate industry are legitimate and fair, crimes are still committed by illegal real estate agents operating without a valid real estate agents licence.
Board chief executive officer and registrar Ravinesh Murti said a lot of people had lost substantial amounts of their savings as they were victimised by illegal agents and unethical developers.
"Members of the public are advised to use solicitors trust account to pay their deposit," he said.
"While paying their deposit, they should examine the sales and purchase documents properly before putting pen on paper.
"Above all, people should check the identification cards of licensed real estate agents.
"This year, REALB will continue to investigate real estate scams and take the offenders to task with the assistance of the Fiji Police Force, Financial Intelligence Unit, Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, Commerce Commission, the Prime Minister's Office and the Attorney-General's Office."
He said agents operating without a valid licence were liable for prosecution under Section 83 of the Real Estate Agents Act 2006 — up to $50,000 in penalties for a company's first offence and imprisonment for up to three years if there was intent for fraud.
"This year, REALB will focus seriously on remote places such as Taveuni, Savusavu and other islands," Mr Murti said.
"REALB received complaints against illegal real estate agents and is working with the Lautoka Police Station and Divisional Commissioner Western as there are significant numbers of illegal agents in Lautoka."
The Consumer Council of Fiji recently issued an advice to consumers against traders or service providers making false or misleading representations about the sale or grant of an interest in land.
The council said businesses should not make false or misleading representations about the nature of the interest in land, price, location, characters and availability of facilities associated with the land.