Investigate EAAB agents plead

Tales of woe have poured in following last week’s article ‘Self-regulation could save property industry millions’. An ‘organisational shambles’, ‘a joke’ and ‘discredit to our profession’ were among the descriptions frustrated agents attributed to the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB).

Bureaucratic bungling topped the list of complaints especially with regards to applications to change the name of a company or to obtain Fidelity Fund certificates (FFC’s) after a name change. For example, Gordon Foulis of Platinum Century Property in Century City, Cape Town, writes they have been in an “ongoing battle” with the EAAB since 2014 just to have their name changed from a ‘Sole Property’ to a ‘Company’. He says the Board have accepted and lost their documents five times, this is besides the alleged 11 attempts to upload the documents via the EAAB’s online portal. Foulis says they have visited the offices of the EAAB in Cape Town and Johannesburg both numerous times.

Unfortunately, Foulis is apparently not an isolated case. An elderly principal estate agent of more than 20 years’ standing finds herself now being listed as an ‘invalid’ estate agent on the EAAB’s website. This after she discovered ‘accidentally’ that her address details, which had remained unchanged for ten years, were incorrect on the website, but “numerous attempts” to correct the mistake either by phone or email went unanswered she says.

Others say they have battled anything from three to 10 months either to register a company with the EAAB or to obtain FFC’s after a name change. Other complaints include enquiries getting ‘lost’ and lack of proper feedback after lodging a complaint with the Board.

The complaints may sound familiar to longer practicing agents who can remember that Carte Blanche did an investigative report on the EAAB in 2011. Among others the programme found 4 000 compliance certificates lying unposted in an office that was generally in disarray. Unfortunately judging by the concerns raised recently by National Treasury, the UDM and the complaints received by representative bodies such as Rebosa, not much have improved with regards to the administrative processes of the EAAB, the official regulatory body for the property industry in South Africa.

Property practitioners who want to remain compliant pay the EAAB thousands of rands for the compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and annually pay to renew their FFC without which they can’t legally operate as commission-earning estate agents. The administration of these substantial funds worries many property practitioners after learning that National Treasury has raised concerns about the state of financial management at the Board with the Department of Human Settlements, the department that the EAAB reports to.

Many therefor welcomed Jan le Roux, chief executive of Rebosa’s suggestion about self-regulation which he said could save the property industry millions. The question was asked, however, how this self-regulation will be implemented. Others even suggested boycotting the training seminars of the EAAB or not paying registration fees as a way to show dismay with the way the EAAB run their affairs.

“Not paying fees or not doing CPD is not the answer,” answers Le Roux in response to these suggestions, “The EAAB has the power to refuse to issue FFC’s should an agent not be in compliance with CPD or be it that they haven’t done so to date. Agents can’t trade without FFC’s, hence such a boycott would really backfire badly.”
Le Roux adds that Rebosa is in constant interaction with the EAAB to improve on service levels and says the organisation will escalate this to ministerial level when possible.

A few property industry leaders consented to weigh in on the matter and had the following to say:
Wakefields chairman Keith Wakefield says in a country crying out for job opportunities as the official unemployment level touches 27%, the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) needs to revisit the processing of Fidelity Fund Certificates (FFC).
“The current delays in issuing FFCs are depriving people from operating as estate agents and thus earning a living. There are examples where these delays amount to several months because the system is not sufficiently streamlined, effectively compromising South Africa’s potential for economic growth and development,” he says.

Wakefield adds the board can further boost the industry by clamping down on the minority operating without their FFCs. While recognising a fair volume of this situation is linked to issuing delays, he says there are people operating as agents who are “bucking the system” and never intend securing their FFCs.
“The board needs to stop this practice to ensure clean governance and accountability within the industry,” he says.

Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says RE/MAX looks forward to full transparency and disclosure with respect to the findings of the public protector’s investigation into the EAAB.

“There are many real estate agents operating in this industry without a Fidelity Fund certificate, putting the general public at risk. The role of the EAAB is to ensure compliance in the industry and in so doing, act in the best interests of and protect the consumer. Another role is to manage the contributions made to the EAAB by agents in the way of license fees. Due to lack of communication and transparency, there is much speculation as to whether these funds have been appropriated properly. We are hopeful that this probe into the EAAB will be the first step in correcting a system which is currently not fulfilling its function as it ought to be in terms of compliance and also hope that it will provide clarity on the financial affairs of the regulatory body,” Goslett concludes, verbalizing the wish shared by many in the property industry.

Further reading: The recent request by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa to the Public Protector to investigate the EAAB was revealed in a TimesLive online news article, ‘Exposed: There’s rot in the roof of SA realty’.

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