The provision of property services to consumers in Ireland is subject to a detailed legislative framework of licensing, regulation, monitoring and enforcement, under the Property Services Regulation Act 2011. The 2011 Act also established the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA), an independent statutory regulatory body specifically tasked with responsibility for licensing and regulating property services providers (auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents).
The Act sets out certain standards and obligations that licensed property services providers must comply with, aimed at ensuring protection for their clients. These include an obligation, under section 43 of the Act, on every licensee to issue a letter of engagement to his or her client which must be signed by both parties within 7 working days of starting to provide a property service or agreeing to provide such a service. The Act sets out the minimum contents of a letter of engagement, including details of the services to be provided to the client, details of any fees or commission payable by the client and requirements in relation to the deposit of client moneys. Failure to comply with section 43 is improper conduct under the Act.
Furthermore, the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 (Minimum Standards) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 564 of 2020), which came into effect on 30 November 2020, set out a range of minimum standards to be observed in the provision of property services by licensees to their clients. In accordance with these Regulations, where a licensee holds a security deposit, in relation to the letting of property, which is due to be paid to a client or returned to a tenant, the licensee is required to make such payment to the client or tenant as provided for in the letter of engagement or, if not so specified, not later than 10 working days after the day the tenant vacates the property, save in exceptional circumstances. Failure to comply with the standards set out in the Regulations amounts to improper conduct.
The PSRA is empowered to investigate complaints of improper conduct made against licensed property services providers, and to launch investigations on its own initiative for the purpose of ensuring compliance by property services providers with their statutory obligations. Where a finding of improper conduct is made by the PSRA, it can impose a range of sanctions: namely, issue a reprimand, warning, caution or advice, suspend or revoke a licence, or direct the licensee to pay a financial penalty (up to €50,000 into the Property Services Compensation Fund, up to €50,000 to the PSRA towards the cost of the investigation, up to €250,000 to the PSRA by way of financial penalty or any combination of the foregoing).
While my Department keeps the operation of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 under review, my Department has no plans at present to amend the Act in the manner suggested by the Deputy.