Dear Mr Chaplog,

I’m writing to you on behalf our readers who are estate agents. These individuals are at the mercy of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) for the issuing of Fidelity Fund certificates.

Large numbers of estate agents are extremely frustrated by the lack of communication displayed by your organisation. Telephone calls often go unanswered, emails are not responded to and messages to return calls are ignored. If this weren’t bad enough, it is virtually impossible for The Property Professional magazine to clarify issues in order to write well-balanced articles that portray both sides of the story as regardless of what is asked, the correspondence remains unacknowledged and the questions unanswered.

At the time of writing, there are thousands of agents who have not been issued with valid Fidelity Fund certificates – a terrifying thought given that it is illegal for agents to sell property if they are not in possession of this important document. We regard this matter in a most serious light and yet despite attempts to illicit a response on behalf of our readers, the EAAB seemingly brushed aside the need to respond and ignored the correspondence completely.

Communication is key in any modern democracy and relatively small problems can easily become major crises if those who are employed to govern an industry fail to talk directly to the people affected. While it could be argued that the Board has no direct sanction to answering questions from the media, you have to bear in mind that you could be alienating your members by acting this way. A dedicated publication such as The Property Professional magazine offers you the ideal opportunity to communicate en masse with your members and, of course, obviates unnecessary individual queries being raised if you show yourself to be accessible by providing relevant, important information in a timely manner.

Please bear in mind that the purpose of the exercise is to inform, educate and enlighten estate agents, not to criticise the Board per se.

We are not the only ones to have concerns. When asked if REBOSA believed that communication between the Board and agents could be improved, the head of the organisation, Jan Le Roux, responded:

“The EAAB has regular roadshows and utilises that to a big extent to communicate. The problem is that not all agents attend. Some communication is done through Agent –again not all agents receive nor read the publication. The EAAB has or should have the email addresses of all estate agents and electronic communication is the most effective and economic. We think short emails with to-the-point messages/instructions/updates to all individual estate agents would be the most effective and immediate. To the best of our knowledge this does not happen, but I can’t imagine any reason why not.”

When asked the same question, Jeanne van Jaarsveldt from the Institute of Estate Agents said:

“Many principal owners have resolved to physically going to the EAAB offices in Sandton to resolve any problems (for example) the issuing of their 2014 FFCs. It seems the process at the EAAB office is relatively streamlined, but we find that principals who do not have the luxury of being in the Gauteng area find it more difficult to resolve issues.”

This has undoubtedly led to many agents feeling totally helpless.

Mr Le Roux notes that estate agents are incredibly frustrated – maybe not so much with communication in general as with responses from the EAAB to emails or answering of telephone calls.

“As we understand it the EAAB is doing its level best to computerise everything and they have in the process compartmentalised the entire operation. This means that there are specific people dealing only with specific issues. No estate agent is in a position to phone one person at the EAAB to address a variety of issues and this has probably not been communicated well. It seems that their planning is that one should phone one dedicated person for one area and phone another dedicated person for another. This is clearly not how the private sector works, where the client is the most important and one contact point in a business will ensure, as far as possible, that the clients’ needs are met. In this case, it works differently and not too well at the moment. Should all these dedicated people be accessible to estate agents and should estate agents really know which one to contact, this may improve, but we do believe some troubleshooting will always be necessary.”

We understand that while, in the case of the issuing of Fidelity Fund certificates, it is easy for agents to point fingers and hold the Board responsible when the agents themselves have not complied with the necessary requirements. However, from what has been conveyed to us by numerous agents is that no one at the Board has contacted the agency concerned to inform them that there is a problem. Surely it is the responsibility of the Board to inform those affected either directly or via the media that there are issues that need to be resolved before a Fidelity Fund certificate can be issued?

We have publicly asked for better communication between the Board and the media at various EAAB roadshows. Despite receiving assurances that the Board wants to keep the lines of communication open, we have yet to experience the benefit of such a promise in everyday practice.

We would like to hear your opinion on all of the above and are hoping for a response that will open future lines of communication about this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

The Editorial Team
The Property Professional magazine

Find out more about the FCC situation in our article Real estate industry nearing a crisis.