is the Special Adviser on Housing to the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. In this interview with journalists in Lagos, the former chairman of Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Area (LCDA) speaks on why the state government had to set up a department regulating the activities and practice of estate agents in the state. Excerpts:
Recently, the state government set up a department to regulate the activities and practice of estate agents in the state. What was the reason behind this move?
Thank you very much. You and I are aware of several cases of how some dubious estate agents have been duping innocent Lagosians in the name of securing accommodation for them. There have been several cases of fraudulent estate agents collecting huge sums of money from different people for the same accommodation. There have been also several cases of dubious estate agents collecting money from prospective tenants and not remitting money to the real owners of the houses. There have been several cases of fraud perpetrated by this category of estate agents to the extent that Lagosians no longer have confidence in the practice of this noble profession.
Yet there are very good and honest estate agents who practice according to the dictates of their profession. Government will not fold its arm and allow dubious people to bastardize a noble profession hence the need for us to come and sanitise this genre of our economy to bring back the confidence of the people in the profession.
Specifically, what are the major functions of this department named Lagos State Real Estate Transaction Department (LASRETRAD)?
The department will regulate and monitor the activities of estate agents in the state. One of the major reasons for establishing the department is to restore confidence in the activities and practice of estate agents in the state.
We want to ensure that residents are adequately protected in their transactions with real estate agents through the entrenchment of the principle of fair play, orderly conduct and accountability. Our aim is also to stop the fraudulent activities of dubious estate agents. We want Lagosians to deal with estate agents with free mind and the confidence that they will not be short-changed.
With the main aim of stimulating public confidence in the real estate transaction, we will also be performing the following functions: handle cases of tenants and landlords relationship in a fair, responsible and reasonable manner; promote investments, simplify procedures and government policies to enhance compliance with international best practices in real estate administration; monitor compliance with the state tenancy law; monitor compliance with the criminal laws as it relates to real estate transactions and other legislation on land transaction; licence estate agents; and renews such licences annually.
How do you intend to achieve these aims?
We intend to work with other relevant government agencies to ensure that our aims come to reality. We will ensure fair play, orderly conduct and accountability in the real estate sector in the state. This department will also ensure that public and governmental activities are carried out in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations.
LASRETRAD will sensitise the public about estate agency and its attendant rules. We will keep register of all qualified estate agency practitioners who register with us.
On the issue of qualified estate agents, how do you intend to identify them?
LASRETRAD will build a database that will metamorphose into an estate agent identification number (EAIN). Such database management will lead to issuance of licences to practice as estate agents in the state through an automation process.
What will be the legal framework for the activities of LASRETRAD?
We have compiled a compendium of rules and regulations of real estate in the state just as preliminary information about practising estate agents licences and other relevant organisations can be checked on our website.
With the establishment of this department, we are setting out a code of best practice requirements on how to become a licensed agent in the state and how complaints are to be handled with new sets of standards. Remember also that there is an existing tenancy law in the state which will also serve as our guide.
What has been the response to the establishment of this department?
The feedback we have been getting has been very encouraging. Qualified practitioners are happy that at last, the profession is being regularised and monitored while Lagosians have been expressing their support because they know that what we are doing is for their general protection. We are happy and this gives us confidence and encouragement to commit our energy and resources to ensure that this is a general success.
Finally, what will be the gain of Lagosians from the establishment of this department?
Simply put, the Fashola administration hopes at increasing the accessibility of Lagosians to affordable homes.