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Facing issues on FFC’s

From 1 July estate agents may apply to renew their mandatory Fidelity Fund certificate for 2019. In light of complaints about a lack of compliance monitoring when these vital documents are issued, we asked the Estate Agency Affairs Board what is being done to address this.

It takes hard work and it is expensive to be a legally compliant property professional. You must be registered, qualified and continuously paying for all the required acronyms, the FFC’s (Fidelity Fund certificates), CPD (continuing professional development) and PDE (professional designation examination).

After going through all that, compliant agents get hot under the collar when non-compliant property practitioners appear to get off scot-free. Frustration with this untenable situation motivated Principal Andile Ben-Mazwai earlier this year to write a letter to the property industry, Lighting a candle against illegal realtors.

In response to his letter, many property practitioners wrote to Property Professional, echoing his frustration and asking tough questions about the Estate Agency Affairs Board’s (EAAB) ability to enforce compliance with all their regulatory requirements. One of the sore points raised was the issuing of Fidelity Fund certificates to agents, and even interns, who are allegedly not compliant with the Board’s educational requirements or are not abiding within the timeframes for CPD.

For example, Desiree Bedhasie, principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s in Richards Bay, wrote the following: There are agents/ principals in the industry for almost 20 years who still do not have their NQF and PDE 4 & 5 respectively. Some agencies are being allowed to get lawyers/ MBA graduates to act as principals only. What is this doing for the job specific knowledge, quality and professionalism? Some agents have been interns forever. Who is checking on this and why is the EAAB still issuing FFC’s to them? If my memory serves me correctly, when CPD was introduced it was mentioned that agents who do not comply in the said timeframes (and extended time allocated) will not be issued FFC’s however, these agents and interns are still operating and being issued FFC’s. Its seems that the EAAB is just issuing these for the money and not concerned about compliance, rules and guidelines that they introduced.

Due to the fact that from 1 July estate agents can apply for the renewal of their FFC’s for the next year, we asked the EAAB to respond to the following questions:

  • What do the EAAB do to enforce compliance with educational and training requirements?

According to Bongani Mlangeni, spokesperson for the EAAB, the Board continuously monitor the registration status of estate agents to ensure they have fully complied with the mandatory requirements of the education regulations. If estate agents fail to comply with the prescribed standard of training, the EAAB will advise them that they are disqualified.

Once disqualified, no Fidelity Fund certificate may be issued by the EAAB to these estate agents for the following year, although any FFC that may have already been issued, remains valid until the end of the year in question.

Estate agents that have become disqualified, may ask the EAAB to supply an FFC to them, if they satisfied the Board by way of a substantive application that they have a just cause. If successful, the EAAB may issue an FFC to such persons under specific conditions determined by the Board.

Mlangeni said the EAAB does not believe that there are still legally practising estate agents who have failed to comply with the education regulations. Should readers, however, be aware of such instances, it would be greatly appreciated if they would immediately report the matter to the EAAB, using the online query option on the EAAB website, so that these matters can be fully investigated.

  • What about the monitoring of interns?

In terms of the Standard of Training of Estate Agents Regulations, every person wishing to become an estate agent, must serve as an intern estate agent for a continuous period of twelve months while under supervision of a principal estate agent or full status estate agent. The period of the internship may be extended, but the extended period may not exceed twelve months. Intern estate agents thus have 24 months within which to comply with educational obligations (Further Education and Training Certificate: Real Estate and pass PDE 4), failing which they are placed on terms by the EAAB. Should there still be no compliance, such persons may be disqualified as estate agents.

  • What about agents who do not comply with CPD even with extended timeframes?

The first peremptory three year rolling CPD cycle for all estate agents, exluding only intern estate agents, commenced in 2015 and ran until the end of 2017. Estate agents were obliged to have complied with CPD obligations during this particular CPD cycle, but those who failed to do so, have been identified and will shortly be informed by the EAAB that they have been rendered disqualified. The non-compliant estate agents may make an application to the Board to request that they be issued with Fidelity Fund certificates for the 2019 year.

  • Is the EAAB serious about enforcing compliance?

Mlangeni says “the EAAB would, indeed, be derelict in fulfilling its regulatory and professional body mandates to stakeholders should it fail efficiently to conduct those activities”. In an effort to be more transparent and effective the EAAB recently introduced an online Query Management System to expedite the efficient management of queries from, and interactions with, all stakeholders within established timeframes. According to Mlangeni the system has proved to be both practical and functional and its use has increased exponentially since inception.

Other steps taken include closer liaison with the sector through the Multi-Stakeholder group meetings.

“The EAAB is satisfied that significant successes have thus far been achieved and intends improving the implementation of this innovative programme,” concludes Mlangeni.

Judging by the many letters of complaint received over the past two weeks which bemoan documents getting ‘lost’ after submission on the online query system, the EAAB will do well to continue improving the efficiency of their systems. Ed.

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