The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has written a letter warning real estate agents against giving advice to under pressure tenants about accessing early release superannuation.
The letter, made public today, states that “ASIC is aware that some real estate agents are advising tenants who are unable to pay their rent, or who may find themselves in such a situation in future, to consider applying for early release of their superannuation”.
“Recent media reports and social media commentary outlining this conduct by some real estate agents is of significant concern to ASIC and, we would hope, you,” the letter said.
“We are concerned that the conduct by real estate agents referred to above may:
• Constitute unlicensed financial advice in contravention of section 911A of the Corporations Act; or
• Not be in the best interests of individuals in contravention of section 961B of the Corporations Act.
“Financial advice must only be provided by qualified and licensed financial advisers, or financial counsellors, not by real estate agents who neither hold the requisite licence, nor are an authorised representative of an Australian Financial Services Licensee,” the letter said. “The Corporations Act imposes significant penalties for a contravention of section 911A. For individuals this can be a maximum of five years imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to $126,000 (600 penalty units), and for corporations a fine of up to $1,260 million dollars (6000 penalty units).
“Tenants facing financial difficulty need sound financial guidance and potentially debt counselling. Specifically pointing them to and recommending them to consider the specific possibility of accessing superannuation is, again, likely to amount to a breach of the Act.”