Portfolio committee invites comment on new bill
Without much fanfare the invite for written submissions on the proposed Property Practitioners Bill was published this past weekend. Only two printed newspapers Rapport and City Press carried the advert in English which was also shared online in the Government Gazette and by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG).
The advert will also be published in the other nine official languages in regional newspapers, says Koliswa Pasiya-Mndende, secretary to the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements. Friday 10 August is the deadline for submissions of written comment to the portfolio committee on this necessary yet contentious piece of legislation. The committee was tasked by parliament on 15 June this year to review the bill, and if they see fit, make amendments to the bill or even recommend it be rewritten from scratch.
The new bill will replace the Estate Agents Affairs Act of 1976 which is deemed to be out of sync with the many changes that have taken place over the last 40 years in the property sector. The main objective of the new legislation is to ensure the sector, currently dominantly white-owned, becomes more reflective of the South African demographic. Other objectives include alignment with the Constitution and to further professionalize the industry.
The bill intends to do this through major changes which include the following:
- Creating a new definition of a property practitioner by expanding the spectrum of the previous one
- Providing for the continuance of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) as the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority
- Establishing a Property Practitioners Ombud Office
- Extending the powers of inspectors to include searching the premises of property practitioners and seize documents where there is non-compliance with the Act
- Possible establishment of a transformation fund to facilitate financing of historically disadvantaged individuals in the property sector
- Requiring the possession of a BEE certificate
During their briefing on the new bill in parliament, MP Nocawe Mafu, chairman of the portfolio committee, expressed concerns that transformation should have received more attention in the bill seeing as that transformation of the property sector was the bill’s primary objective. Committee members also had reservations about the extended powers of inspectors and the wisdom of establishing another Ombud Office.
Read: Briefing to the portfolio committee by the Department of Human Settlements as recorded by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group
The NPO Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa (Rebosa) in their detailed submission during a previous public participation process expressed concern among others about the wideness of the definition for ‘property practitioner’ and the additional administrative pressure this will create for the EAAB, saying the “sheer number of other persons and enterprises which will be brought within the ambit of the Authority’s regulatory power will significantly challenge the ability of the Authority to inspect, monitor and control the activities of such persons; yet at the same time, the Authority will have a statutory obligation to carry out in that regard”.
Rebosa also queried whether public interest would be served by requiring all “other categories” of property practitioners to hold fidelity fund certificates and to operate trust accounts. The NPO proposed that distinctions should be made between different categories of property practitioners and that differentiation be made in terms of legislation applicable to the various groups.
Read: Q & A on Rebosa’s submission
Some property experts have also expressed concerns that the new legislation could actually hinder transformation through adding even more regulations to an industry already feeling overburdened with expensive regulatory requirements. The point has been made that the added regulatory obligations could have contributed to the sharp decline in the number of registered estate agents in recent years. Others however attribute the decline to the general flatlining of the property market since around 2008/9 up to the present due to the country’s lack of economic growth.
Submissions need to reach Koliswa Pasiya-Mndende, the secretary of the portfolio committee, before the closing date of 10 August. Write to her by mail (Attention: Koliswa Pasiya-Mndende, 3rd Floor, W/S 3/077, 90 Plein Street, Cape Town, 8001) or email email@example.com.
Copies of the bill can be obtained from Pasiya-Mndende (021 403 3725 or 083 709 8495) or on the website of parliament. We found PMG’s website easier to navigate to find the bill – click here
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