Settlement agents set their own fees which must be disclosed to the client in writing prior to entering into any agreement. Agents must not receive a fee above the disclosed amount unless there is a significant change in the scope of the work.
Removing the cap and deregulating fees will allow service providers greater flexibility to cater for the differing needs of their clients and the varying complexity of work involved.
As with any other purchase, consumers should do their homework and shop around for the best deal to suit their circumstances before engaging an agent.
Prior to being appointed to act by the client, settlement agents are now required to provide their client with a written costs disclosure which sets out the maximum amount the settlement agent can charge for their services. This amount must include all fees, commissions, charges and general office disbursements (eg photocopying, postage, stationery, telephone calls, facsimiles, courier costs etc) that the settlement agent will charge the client for their settlement transaction.
The settlement agent will not be entitled to receive payment for a service that exceeds the amount disclosed to the client unless:
- There is an unforseen, significant change in the scope of work required to provide the service; and
- The settlement agent informs the client in writing of the change; and
- The client agrees to the licensee continuing to provide the service; and
- The additional amount is reasonable in the circumstances.
Statutory and other costs
The maximum amount disclosed to the client must not include statutory or other costs payable by the settlement agent on the client’s behalf. These costs include:
- Duty chargeable under the Duties Act 2008 such as transfer duty (previously known as ‘stamp duty’);
- Any other tax, duty, fee, levy or charge payable under law such as title search fees through Landgate;
- Fees payable to bank and other financial institutions; or
- Commissions charged by a real estate agent, developer or any other third party.
It is considered good business practice for settlement agents to provide clients with details of these costs even though these statutory costs are not required to be included in the maximum amount disclosed to their client .
Clients should ask about these additional charges, if they have not been disclosed upfront, so that they are fully informed of the total cost of their settlement transaction.
In particular, transfer duty can be a significant cost in addition to the purchase price. It is advisable to calculate the duty on a property so you can make sure you have sufficient funds to pay it prior to settlement. If you are a first home buyer you may be eligible for a reduced duty rate. Further information about the first home owner grant is available on the State Revenue website.
Professional indemnity insurance and disbursements
It is the department’s view that professional indemnity insurance is not a disbursement and a proportion of the insurance premium should not be charged to clients as a disbursement for their transaction.
Property Exchange Australia LTD’s (PEXA) single transaction service fee is considered a general office disbursement. This fee should be incorporated into the maximum service amount that settlement agents disclose to the client.
Need more information?
A frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet has been developed to help settlement agents with the fee deregulation.
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