Offence to charge commission

REALB chairman Dr Abdul Hassan with the PS for Industry, Tourism and Trade, Shaheen Ali at the second National Real Estate Conference in Pacific Harbour today. Picture: ABISHEK CHAND

It is an offence for legal practitioners to charge commission to their clients in regards to the sale or purchase of real estate.

This was according to the representative from the Fiji Law Society, Mereseini Vanua, during the National Real Estate Conference held in Pacific Harbour last week.

“For us the Act is quite clear the only thing that we can charge for is the services we are providing, such as documentation etc.,” she said.

Ms Vanua said the Legal Practitioners Act 2009 states “no person should be deemed a real estate agent for the purpose of this Act only of the fact that being a legal practitioner the person acts in the course of business as a legal practitioner to prepare all the documentation pertaining to the sale purchase or other selling of land or by the acquisition, or buying of land or the leasing or letting of land and charge professional fees as a legal practitioner”.

“So those are the only fees that we can charge as a professional fee, not commission.”

Consumers had to collect evidence when making such complaints as according to Ms Vanua the Legal Practitioners Unit would do their investigation just like the Real Estate Agent Licensing Board.

According to her the issue of lawyers charging commission would be taken back to the members of FLS where it would be discussed with them and provide mentoring or counselling as advice.

“Especially now that we have a lot of new lawyers coming in, we need to update them and say the law expects from us this and conduct should be this way and so forth.

“I am hearing this now and there is no evidence and there is no proof but this is something that I will have to take up to our president who will then decide on how to go about it.”

She said the Fiji Law Society created awareness and carried out programs which was part of their duty to educate the public as well.

“What we can do is offer workshops, public speaking and bringing this up as well as an issue just so the public can be aware.

“We also have other bodies such as the FCCC and CCF, they are aware with this.”

She said should the lawyers be found to charge commission it would fall on the Legal Practitioners Unit and not the Fiji Law Society to take further actions.

“One of them is that we can get suspended, sometimes they require, its either suspension or we put our licence on the line.

“For us the Act is quite clear, the only thing that we can charge for is the services we are providing, such as documentation etc.”

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