By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A former PLP Cabinet Minister yesterday confirmed he had instructed his attorney to proceed with legal action against the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) for publicly naming him among 70 realtors who had allegedly failed to pay their annual licence fees.
George Smith, the former Exuma MP, told Tribune Business: “I have instructed my attorney, Raynard Rigby, and he has filed the affidavits and papers against the Association.”
Mr Smith said the Real Estate Brokers & Salesmen Act 1995 required BREA to publish an annual listing of members who were current and in good standing with their licence fees, not those allegedly delinquent or behind on payment.
He conceded that he was one month behind on his licence fees for the first time ever, adding: “I admit I was delinquent, but I can’t for the life of me understand why they put that out.”
Mr Smith added that he had been among the 1995 Act’s supporters, and spoke in its favour in Parliament.
The former MP referred Tribune Business to his attorney, Baycourt Chambers principal Raynard Rigby, for further comment. Mr Rigby, though, was said to be out of office for the day when this newspaper called.
Tribune Business previously revealed the controversy caused by BREA’s July 2014 decision to publish in the newspapers a listing of all realtors allegedly not in good standing on their licence fees.
Others included now-FNM chairman Michael Pintard, who chalked his delinquency up to an oversight on his part.
“I wasn’t aware that they had put out a list, but I know for the last calender year I had missed the deadline. When I had sought to make the payment, the young lady mentioned that the practice is that even if you are a day or a week late, then that’s what it is,” said Mr Pintard said at the time.
“It is what it is. I will send them a letter seeking to pay. It was just a simple oversight in meeting the deadline. I’m still very much interested in the field, primarily as a developer of my own properties, but by extension I’m interested in the real estate business and would support any and all projects BREA puts forth once I get a chance to consider them.”
The real problem, though, was caused by the inclusion of realtors who were actually in good standing, including Bishop Walter S Hanchell, president and chief executive at PGF Real Estate. He was among those mistakenly named.
This led two-time former BREA president, Pat Strachan, to demand that the practice of publishing the ‘delinquent’ list be abandoned.
He urged those wrongly named to file a lawsuit against BREA, having also called the practice illegal, noting that it could damage a person’s reputation and give the impression that the individual may have committed an unethical act.
Brokers are required to pay an annual fee of $400 and a sales agent, $300
BREA’s current president, Carla Sweeting, while apologising for any oversights, previously told Tribune Business: “Any agent listed should not be practicing. We follow the Act; it’s the law. Your annual membership license is due by the 31st of very year, but the Act allows you six months till the end of June in order to pay your dues.
“After that you are no longer licensed, which means you are no longer legal to practice or engage in real estate. The Act requires that we gazette twice a year. The first gazette must be those that are licensed, and the second can be either/or - either the licensed or the unlicensed.”
Ms Sweeting said agents whose names appeared on the list could reapply for membership. “It’s a simple process. They could reapply to the membership committee. There is a fee for the reapplication, and when they pay their dues the application is reviewed by the committee, then forwarded to the Board” she added.
“I have never known anyone to reapply and not get their licenses. It’s just a formality.”