Arrest, Court Case Prompt BREA to Urge ‘Use a Licensed Agent’
The recent arrest of the 31-year-old CEO of a business called Rent2Own Bahamas prompted Bahamas Real Estate Association President Christine Wallace-Whitfield today “to urge and beseech prospective real estate clients to use a BREA-licensed Broker or BREA-licensed salesperson for their own peace of mind and financial protection.”
Wallace-Whitfield’s plea to rely on licensed professionals followed the late December arrest of Andre Moncur. The Gleniston Gardens resident was charged with three counts of fraud by false pretenses after he allegedly took deposits from three victims to buy houses he reportedly neither owned nor had permission to sell. Court records allege that Moncur started his Rent2Own business from home in 2015, made his first sale in February of 2017 and received three deposits, two in the amount of $12,000 and one in the amount of $15,000, over an eight-month period between March and December 2020. He has denied the charges, was granted bail of $8,500 and returns to court on January 26 for trial.
The Rent2Own website remains up with a series of well-honed and branded marketing videos, a single blog posted in August 2019 and no contact information at the time of this writing.
“In some reports, the person at the centre of this, Mr. Andre Moncur, was referred to as a realtor, but he does not hold a BREA license and there is no record of his ever having held a BREA license,” said Wallace-Whitfield. “Therefore, he was not a realtor and was unable to lawfully practice real estate business in The Bahamas.”
She urged the public to check the BREA website for a full listing of all registered and licensed salespersons, property appraisers and developers who are authorized to practice real estate.
“The general public is protected when using BREA licensed brokers or salespersons in that if they are proven to be guilty of professional misconduct, such as being dishonest or incompetent in the performance of their professional duties, breaching the Code of Ethics or failing to account for monies received from clients, then BREA could order them to make restitution and suspend or even cancel their BREA license,” said Wallace-Whitfield, who was recently elected for a fourth term heading the country’s largest professional association.
“According to Bahamian law, only a licensed real estate broker or salesperson is permitted to list and sell other persons’ property within the borders of The Bahamas,” said Wallace-Whitfield, noting the BREA Code of Ethics expressly restricts a BREA broker or salesperson from offering property for sale without the authority of the owner with the quoted sale price set by the owner. “Any BREA broker or salesperson who does not follow the Code of Ethics will be investigated by BREA and may face disciplinary proceedings which could result in fines or even cancellation of their BREA license.”
To earn a license, a salesperson candidate must be sponsored by a licensed broker, complete an intensive course and pass the real estate exam. His or her credentials are also scrutinized. Many candidates have to re-sit the exam which includes extensive questions on property law, taxation, mortgage and financing calculations, definitions related to property description, insurance, title searches and recording.
“There are more than 700 licensed brokers and salespersons in The Bahamas,” said Wallace-Whitfield. “It is always heart-breaking to hear of a situation where an innocent person is the alleged victim of fraud by false pretenses. Fortunately, those incidents are few by comparison to the number of successfully completed transactions, but even a single case that goes awry and is held by the Court to have taken innocent victims with it, endangers the reputation of The Bahamas as well as causing personal financial harm to individuals.”
“BREA is a very forward thinking, progressive, diverse and active community of real estate professionals. While the field is competitive, we all share a common goal – to ensure that every property transaction in The Bahamas meets the international gold standard of excellence and services are carried out with integrity and honour, thus building confidence and trust in the real estate profession so the next person who buys or rents knows he or she will enjoy a similar experience and worry-free result,” said Wallace-Whitfield.