Property Professional speaks to Jan le Roux, Chief Executive of REBOSA, to find out more about the organisation and its objectives for the real estate industry

What is REBOSA and who runs it?

REBOSA is the Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa.  It is a non-profit Company that was formed a few years ago to represent the best interests of all business owners and principals of estate agencies operating in the residential real estate sector.  I am the new Chief Executive, appointed by the board of directors who are elected at an AGM – to be held on 20 June 2014 in Johannesburg.

Why did you accept this position?

I have been involved in the industry since 1983 and believe I really know it very well.  I am also reasonably acquainted with many business owners and held many different positions I was a practicing estate agent for 10 years and launched many property publications. I was also instrumental in launching the Property Association that led to today’s BetterBond. Based on my past experience I really feel equipped for the challenge.  More importantly, as a business owner myself, I feel the need to be represented on a national level.  I know it is impossible, both time and impact wise, for an individual to interact with government on legislation like the Property Practitioners Bill.  Change can only be effected by a concerted joint effort, well researched, motivated and presented – something a well organised governing body can do.

Why is REBOSA necessary?

Our objective is to achieve collectively what real estate business owners individually cannot.

As government enforces tighter controls and transparency standards across the board, business owners are recognising that they don’t have the core competencies to readily adapt or respond to these changes; nor do they have the right people for example lawyers to effectively engage with relevant authorities.

This is arguably a most critical time.  Amendments to laws and new legislation are seriously impacting the property sector.  The first thing that comes to mind is the looming Property Practitioner’s Bill that would have been published already was it not for the fact that the draft apparently was in conflict with the Constitution.

The current Estate Agency Affairs Act, which became effective in 1976, is flawed in many respects. Numerous existing clauses in the Act are extremely detrimental to the real estate industry.  An example of this is Clause 34 that declares that a seller need not pay an estate agent any commission, should that agent not have been issued with a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) at the time when the contract of sale was entered into. It is easy to see that this is not practical.  I would like to think that when this act was promulgated, the original objective was to have a ‘draconian’ measure in place to ensure that agents were properly registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and complied with the act, which of course would have been duly appropriate. The downside is, however, that sometimes FFC’s have not been issued due to administrative oversights, computer glitches and the like.  Unfortunately and with devastating consequences, the penalty to the estate agent remains the same – forfeiture of commission. The “punishment” outweighs the “crime”. This incidentally is a current problem of some magnitude.

One would hope that the Property Practitioner’s Bill would address this issue and stipulate a reasonable penalty or at least suspend the penalty should it be proven that the estate agency/agent was/is not at fault.  It is also probably the only legislation in South Africa where the “penalty” goes to enrich, in this case, the seller.  This amounts to something like paying your speeding fine to a car manufacturer! REBOSA will ensure that the Property Practitioner’s Bill is studied properly and responded to.

Aside from the critical issues mentioned above, REBOSA will also play a central role when it comes to addressing issues of national importance which directly affect business owners. Property publications and property portals are good examples.  Real estate business owners have until now had marginal successes in this regard but these are mostly on a regional level, for instance estate agent owned publications in the greater Johannesburg, Cape Town; Durban and their surrounds.  Much more can be achieved by drawing on our collective knowledge and resources coupled with partnering on a national level, even if only to share information.

What else can REBOSA do for members?

Previously, business owners and principals never had a prevailing body effectively representing their specific interests.  REBOSA’sdirective is to do just that.  Aside from challenging the regulatory and technical concerns affecting our sector, there is also the important issue of disseminating information. Managing an estate agency in the current climate is a complex and demanding occupation.  While running a business and attempting to align with constant changes in legislation; government announcements, amendments and keeping abreast of industry trends can easily be overlooked.

Another benefit of belonging to REBOSA is the distribution of relevant information through regular newsletters and the publication thereof on the REBOSA website. Much as REBOSA is a national organisation there are always issues of local concern.  REBOSA will soon be in a position to respond to these local issues raised by members. Meetings could be facilitated for REBOSA members in a particular area to evaluate specific problems, arrive at a decision and then act upon it in the best interest of the local members.

How would members participate and give input?

The AGM, to which all members are invited, is the most practical way to contribute. This of course includes the democratic election of board members.

This may be costly for members so we also plan to have at least one meeting a year in major centres to allow us to connect with our members, share information and gain valuable input.

We do live in an electronic age. Communication is hardly a challenge and the REBOSA website is in place to publish everything that is relevant and topical.

Who can join?

All natural persons and legal entities that have been issued with a FFC in terms of which an estate agency may be operated, can join.

Our fee structure is exceptionally simple and effective.  It is calculated at R20.00 plus VAT per registered agent (principals included) per agency per month.

What is the difference between REBOSA and the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa (IEASA)?

It’s very simple.  An agreement has been reached between the two parties that IEASA will look after the best interests of employees (estate agents) and REBOSA will do the same for business owners (principals).  This is also in alignment with the expectation of Services SETA, the EAAB and the Department of Human Settlements.  This separation also applies to other industries/professions.

What is REBOSA’s relationship with the EAAB?

I am pleased to say that our relationship is very good.  We interact on a regular basis and naturally have issues that need to be addressed.  Relatedly, co-operation between our two entities has seen the EAAB sanction us placing our own staff members in their offices, to assist REBOSA members finalise their paperwork with the EAAB.  This has been enormously popular and members have benefited greatly.

What has REBOSA achieved to date?

REBOSA is an active member of BUSA (Business Unity South Africa) and has through this channel provided considerable input on various bills.  As REBOSA is a relatively new entity, our first objective is to regularise the relationship with the EAAB and facilitate the issue of FFC’s more effectively.

What are the pressing challenges at the moment?

The FFC situation is of utmost importance together with building our membership base.