Amendments to code of conduct - Settlement industry bulletin 100
23 December 2020
Amendments to the code of conduct
Recent amendments to the Settlement Agents Code of Conduct 2016 (WA) (SA Code) bring the fee disclosure requirements in line with those under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). They also provide settlement agents with flexibility in getting paid for unexpected additional work.
Lining up with the ACL
The SA Code requires agents to provide clients with a costs disclosure setting out the amount the agent will charge for their services (the service amount), before acting for the client. Prior to the recent amendments to the SA Code, fees imposed by law could not be included in the agent’s service amount. This included the agent's costs in relation to title searches, water enquiries and using Landgate's advice of sale service.
This caused some confusion as the ACL requires a settlement agent to disclose these enquiry fees as part of the agent’s single price for their service.
The amendments to rule 23 of the SA Code align the SA Code with the ACL, making billing more transparent by requiring agents to include enquiry fees in the service amount. The amendments also clarify what other costs must be contained in the service amount including fees for electronic conveyancing services (i.e. PEXA fees).
Other fees imposed on the client by law, or by a third party, can still be set out separately in the cost disclosure. They cannot be included in the service amount as they are not related to the service provided by the agent (e.g. stamp duty or a real estate agent’s commission).
Costs for additional work
Amendments to rule 24 of the SA Code give agents greater flexibility to recover costs for unexpected additional work they may need to do after the cost disclosure has been given to the client. This includes receiving more than the service amount if:
- additional work is required to provide the services;
- the work could not have been reasonably foreseen when the costs disclosure was provided; and
- the agent provides the client with written notice of the additional work and the client agrees to proceed with the agent’s services.
The amendments also allow an agent to receive an additional amount if the service amount includes a tax, duty, fee, levy or charge imposed on the agent by law, which increases in price after the costs disclosure is given. The agent must inform the client in writing of the increase and any extra amount must be reasonable in the circumstances.
Consumer Protection December to January office closures
Please note our offices will be closed on Friday, 25 December 2020 and will reopen on Monday, 4 January 2021. The following services will be available between Tuesday, 29 December to Thursday, 31 December 2020:
- Our Cannington office will be open for licensing and Bond Administration matters only. Cashiers will be on site to take payments for licence and registration applications.
- The Landlord Hotline and mandatory conciliation service can be reached by calling 1300 304 054 and pressing 1.
- The Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme can be reached by calling (08) 6251 2740.
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday.
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