MOST people probably give little thought to settlement fees and property transfers even when they are buying or selling a house but they need to know there are changes happening that concern some in the industry.
By December 1 settlement agents and lawyers involved in property sales have been set a deadline to carry out all property transfers, discharge of mortgages and withdrawal of caveats electronically via PEXA.
Landgate, which is based in Midland, has a 12 per cent shareholding in PEXA, which stands for Property Exchange Australia Ltd – Australia’s first electronic lodgement network.
As well as Landgate, three other states and commercial entities such as the Big Four banks including the Commonwealth Bank, which has just been issued a $700 million fine after admitting its “smart” ATM system was misused by criminal networks to import drugs and guns, are also PEXA shareholders.
East Metropolitan MLC Charles Smith, who is against the privatisation of Landgate, said in light of the CBA admitting its ATM system was exploited it was not wise to make PEXA the only electronic lodgement network available.
“Australia has an appalling record on money laundering especially into the residential property market,’’ he said.
“Australia has amazingly slack money laundering regulations and this is well known by international criminals needing to wash the proceeds of crime.’’
In April the WA conveyancing industry was granted a seven-month extension to December to prepare for digital transition after it became obvious the industry was not going to meet a May deadline.
Mr Smith said some members of Parliament including cross-bench members had lobbied Ms Saffioti to delay the introduction of the e-conveyancing system and that the cross bench had been prepared to move a Disallowance motion if further consultation was not allowed.
At the time Lands Minister Rita Saffioti said adopting electronic conveyancing would ensure the state maintained best practice systems, which provided superior protection of Western Australians’ property assets from fraud while meeting consumer expectations around the ease and efficiency of online transactions.
The Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA executive officer Dion Dosualdo said at this stage there were no safe guards in PEXA to confirm or authenticate financial transfers as a means of verifying recipient details.
“Large sums of money are transferred blindly in the hope they reach their intended destination or recipient,’’ he said.
“This issue is largely outside of PEXA’s control, who would require the support of the broader banking industry and or the Australian Registrars National Electronic Conveyancing Council to implement account verification and make it available in PEXA.
“This concern has been identified as a major weakness which AICWA works closely with its members to mitigate against.”
Mr Smith said anyone wanting to buy, sell or develop land needed to be assured the register was accurate.
He said state land titles businesses were a critical government service and a profitable natural monopoly.
“Their sale will very possibly result in customers being gouged by the new monopoly owners, whereas the state governments will lose a reliable income stream.”
By Anita McInnes