NSW Government to appoint independent statutory property services commissioner

The NSW Government has announced it will appoint an independent statutory Property Services Commissioner from August 1 to drive reform, boost industry standards and support consumers.

Today’s announcement comes after former independent Property Group Managing Director John Minns became the state’s first Property Services Commissioner in late 2021.

Minister for Fair Trading Eleni Petinos said the new position would have greater responsibility in the $24 billion property services sector and would support the 37,000 people working in the industry.

“Whether it’s buying or renting a home, navigating strata or looking for land, everyone engages with the property services sector at some point, and for many consumers, this is often on their biggest investment,” she said.

“This is why we want to ensure those working in the industry are supported and empowered in meeting consumer needs.

“Establishing an independent statutory Property Services Commissioner will drive future reforms to support both consumers and the property services industry, helping to ensure a strong and professional sector and build a brighter future for the entire industry.

“We’ve considered the feedback collected during the Property Services Listening Tour. 

“As a result, we will legislate to provide the Property Services Commissioner more responsibility for the regulation of the sector, including managing complaints, direct communication and engagement with consumer groups and industry, and investigating breaches of relevant legislation.”

Ms Petinos acknowledged Mr Minns’s contribution as the inaugural Property Services Commissioner.

“John has contributed greatly to the NSW Government’s modernisation of the property services industry by engaging with stakeholders and providing a platform for the continued journey,” she said.

“I thank John for his efforts and wish him well for the future.”

Mr Minns said, if executed well, the independent statutory Property Services Commission was “likely to have benefits for industry and consumers in the sector in areas such as regulatory activity and complaints handling”.

Mr Minns said he was pleased that over the past seven months as Property Services Commissioner, he had engaged extensively with the industry, consumer groups and government to prepare a comprehensive property services strategy focused on industry transformation and regulatory reform.

“I’m really pleased that, probably for the first time in NSW, there is a genuine property services strategy that covers five separate projects, which go to the heart of saying, ‘here are the problems that we need to deal with’,” he said.

The five projects include Project Transform, which is all about the risks and challenges emerging in the strata industry, including consumer education, adequacy of licensing, strata disclosures in contracts of sale, and insurance.

“Project Engage is all about how you actually connect government and business, in particular, in ways that they haven’t been instead of pitching grenades from opposing trenches at each other,” Mr Minns said.

Mr Minns said Project Connect involved building connected and synergised government service delivery, and he had worked closely with the NSW Fair Trading commissioner Natasha Mann to “regulate for performance and regulate against consumer harms, which is really critical”.

“That involves making sure there’s better data, there are better dashboards, and there’s also an understanding that regulation is meant to empower people,” he said. 

“One of the approaches that we talk about under Connect is ‘educate, communicate and enforce’, and I think there’s been a view that if you turn up one, you have to turn down the other one.

“But my headspace, and I think those leading the industry also have this headspace, is that you want to be able to turn the dial up on all of them.”

John Minns.

Mr Minns said the fourth strategy, Project Elevate, was all about empowering high professional standards through fit-for-purpose education and licensing.

“Elevate is about looking at what is going to enable us to, without having unreasonable restrictions and arbitrary training requirements, get training, compliance and performance to all connect,” he said.

The fifth strategy – Project Beyond – encompasses engaging with emerging digital and industry transformation to drive great customer experiences and protection.

Mr Minns said despite completing his term as commissioner on July 29, he would still chair the Project Transform Round Table in August.

He said he hoped all of the projects would continue under the new commissioner and statutory body, but he said there may be a change in direction and timing given a new statutory needed to be built.

An Acting Property Services Commissioner will be in place from August 1, while the NSW Parliament considers the legislation.

“I want to be totally supportive of whoever is going to step into the role because this is too important,” Mr Minns said.

“I’ll do what I can to help them on the practical side of things that we know are necessary for not only a vibrant future for the industry, but for consumers to have confidence in it in years to come.”

Real Estate Institute of NSW Chief Executive Officer Tim McKibbin welcomed the announcement of an independent statutory Property Services Commissioner.

“We have been calling for an independent statutory Property Services Commissioner to support the industry and consumers as we believe an independent commissioner will deliver substantial benefits for both the industry and consumers,” Mr McKibbin said.

President of the Strata Community Association of Australia Chris Duggan also supported the announcement.

“It is important for our industry, clients and customers to have an independent voice to resolve complaints and progress regulatory reform,” he said.

“This evolution of the commissioner’s role is a sign of the commitment to ensure that consumers in the property sector are at the centre of reform and compliance.”

Mr Minns said he would remain active in the property sector, including in the PropTech arena and speaking engagements.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.