Remember when it was reported last year that there are increasing numbers of illegal real estate agents due to the slow property market? Or even before that, where it was found that real agents lost up to 40% of their sales to fake agents?

Today, it was reported in The Star that unlicensed real estate agents may be fined up to RM300,000 and face jail time as well, said the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA). The newly amended Valuer, Appraisers and Estate Agents (Amendment) Act will empower the police to act against such agents.

MIEA Johor branch chairman Liew Toh Sen said the move was much welcomed as previously, police had no power to go after unauthorised agents “even after they ran off with buyers’ funds”. He said there were about 2,500 licensed real estate firms in the country, employing about 23,000 real estate negotiators and agents. “MIEA estimates that the number of illegal agents are at least 20 to 50 times more than the licensed ones. There have been many cases of property buyers getting swindled,” he said.

The Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia (BOVAEA), which regulates the agents in Malaysia, received about 50 to 60 such complaints each month.

Under the amended Act, he said illegal real estate negotiators or agents could be fined up to RM300,000, be jailed not more than three years, or both, upon conviction. He advised unlicensed agents to attend a two-day course by MIEA in order to obtain proper accreditation.

“Prospective buyers can download the BOVAEA smartphone application and key in the agent’s details to find out if he or she is licensed.”

Not sure whether the agent or negotiator you’re dealing with is the real deal? There are several types of real estate professionals in the industry, and here’s how you can identify a licensed realtor or negotiator from the scammers.