Cheating is a specific criminal offence in property law. Cheating is a very broad term in real estate, and nearly every reported case involves the victim being subjected to cheating at some point. It is worth noting that other misconducts such as Misrepresentation, and Profiteering can also fall within the realms of Cheating.
A key definition of Cheating would be ‘acting dishonestly or unfairly to gain an advantage’ over you. An illustration of this would in the conduct of a sale or rental of a property with the intention to withhold information.
The key word is intention – hence it is the element of dishonesty that makes it a case for Cheating. We see this in R. v. Sinclair, which upholds that that to cheat and defraud is to act with deliberate dishonesty to the prejudice of another person’s proprietary right.’
One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that it could never happen to them. In reality, statistics contradicts this. In Malaysia it’s estimated that 20% of house buyers are cheated every month. Based on the complaints received, the actual numbers may be higher.
To shed light on these dangers, the scenarios below illustrate some of the common examples of cheating.
A person who claims he is an agent for the owner and tries to collect a cheque from the buyer when in actual fact he is not.
A person who collects deposits for tenancies or sale and asks for cash or cheque in his name.
A house sold ‘with trappings and furniture’ – when in reality no such benefits were included.
A person withholding pertinent information on the sale just to close the deal & make some money.
How to Protect Yourself
Registered Estate Agents (REA) undergo 4 years of study, they sit for 12 papers over a two year period and after passing the exam, they undergo two years of post practical training under the supervision of a Registered Real Estate Agent. On completion of the practical training, they have to sit for their part three exam which is a oral test before being registered. Only after that they are registered with the Board and then authorized to operate a firm where Real Estate Negotiators (REN) are employed.
All Negotiators are certified and carry a tag, deal only with them. If possible check with their firm and verify details through a quick meeting or phone call.
Always have an inventory list of what will and will not be included in your sale or rental.
Familiarize yourself with your rights and responsibilities and don’t be afraid to challenge any provisions or ask for clarifications.
Take note you are protected when you deal with a REA or a REN as they come under the oversight of the Board of Valuers , Appraisers & Estate Agents (BOVAEA).
Ensure all monies are banked into the “Firms Clients Account” as it is covered by professional indemnity insurance.