1. The following sets out the EAA’s policy on the holding of estate agent’s licence (individual) and salesperson’s licence by individuals who are undischarged bankrupts.
2. The relevant legal requirement is contained in sections 19(2)(a) and 21(3)(a) of the Estate Agents Ordinance. These sections provide that, in considering whether an individual is a fit and proper person to hold an estate agent’s licence (individual) or a salesperson’s licence, the EAA shall have regard to, among other things, the fact that the individual is an undischarged bankrupt.
3. The EAA takes the above requirement seriously. While each case is considered on its own merits, generally speaking, the EAA is inclined to regard the fact that an individual is an undischarged bankrupt as:
at the very least, indicative of his/her failure to manage personal finances properly;
in particular cases (e.g. those involving multiple borrowings), possibly indicative of irresponsible or even dishonest conduct.
4. In addition, the EAA attaches great importance to the fact that the services provided by its licensees are likely to be heavily relied on by their clients and may have potentially serious impact on clients’ financial interests. Where a client knows that the licensee acting for him is an undischarged bankrupt, such knowledge could, in some cases, affect the client’s confidence in the licensee (or his perception of the estate agency trade as a whole).
5. The above considerations apply to cases involving current licensees who go bankrupt as well as bankrupt licence applicants. However, in the former case, the EAA’s consideration of whether such a licensee remains a fit and proper person to continue to hold a licence is likely to be aided by other relevant information from his/her past records as a practitioner.
6. In contrast, no comparable information is likely to be available for the EAA’s consideration in the case of a bankrupt licence applicant who has never been in the trade before. With such an applicant, it would only be in very rare cases that the EAA might, in the light of exceptional circumstances, be satisfied that the applicant is in fact a fit and proper person to be granted a licence notwithstanding his/her bankrupt status.
7. Under the Bankruptcy Ordinance, a bankrupt individual will in most cases be automatically discharged from bankruptcy after a lapse of four years. In the absence of special circumstances, the EAA will not regard an applicant’s previous bankruptcy as a bar to being granted a licence.
Special vetting procedure
Click here to see special vetting procedure applicable to cases involving further consideration on whether the relevant person is a fit and proper person.