Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Panel Will Keep Close Watch On St. Pete Real Estate Market

ST. PETERSBURG -- In an attempt to clean up St. Petersburg's troubled real estate market, the city property committee has set up a panel empowered to review estate agency licenses and withhold them from firms deemed to be acting unethically.

Real estate agencies must apply to the panel every three years to renew their licenses, according to the decree signed earlier this month by German Gref, St. Petersburg vice governor and head of the city property committee.

The 14-member panel, consisting of state officials and industry representatives, can deny a license if it finds a firm to have repeatedly violated laws.

However, the president of the Association of Realtors and Homebuilders of St. Petersburg, Alexander Makarov, said he was opposed to giving the new panel the power to take away licenses.

"There is the possibility that subjective decisions could be made," he said.

Alexander Romanenko, president of the Advecs agency, was also wary of giving the council of experts too much power. "It could be very bad for business," he said.

While the initial idea of regulation seemed reasonable, he said a specific procedure has to be set up for processing complaints to ensure fairness.

"To deny a license, there have to be concrete facts," Romanenko said.

The committee said in a news release that it was responding to requests from the real estate community to tighten the licensing procedure.

The panel consists of members of the city property committee and the city police's economic crimes unit, and representatives from two local industry bodies -- the Association of Realtors and Home Builders of St. Petersburg and the Baltiisky Union of Realtors. It will use the code the Association of Realtors and Home Builders of St. Petersburg prepared.

The St. Petersburg real estate market has been rocked by a series of scandals last year. It all began with the collapse of InterOccidental last fall and later by Dom Plus and Kredo-Petersburg.