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‘‘No FFC No commission’ wrong title for our campaign’

MAIN IMAGE: Romy Tarboton, principal of Signature Real Estate.

Signature Real Estate is officially proceeding with their appeal against the ‘No FFC No commission’ ruling – an widely supported action that has also met with some opposition from some of their fellow agents. Principal Romy Tarboton says in hindsight a better title for the ruling would have been ‘High Court rules: Estate agent liable for EAAB inefficiency’.

Last month Tarboton announced they launched a crowdfunding campaign to fight the Cape High Court ruling that stated a estate agent or agency aren’t legally entitled to claim commission if they weren’t in possession of a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) at the time of the transaction – irrespective of proof the agency may have that they applied correctly and timeously for a renewal with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB).

It is an unfortunate fact that the regulating authority continues to experience capacity constraints to process the thousands of applications they receive annually for FFC renewals. If the EAAB is unsuccessful to resolve the current backlog, come 1 January 2020 there will again be many agents without valid FFCs and, in accordance with the mentioned High Court ruling, they will then not be able to legally trade and earn a living.

Tarboton says so far they have raised R22 500 through the fund which has allowed them to file Heads of Arguments. They currently await the written court date from the registrar.

“We would not have been able to have gotten this far without the incredible support of our peers. Signature wishes to thank each and every contributor! We still have a way to go in so far as the financing of the appeal is concerned but we have raised enough funds to take the next step,” she says.

Tarboton answers questions about the campaign

There has been an attempt to discredit their campaign on social media platforms says Tarboton and this has caused some confusion as to the purpose of the campaign. Here are her answers to the most important questions raised.

The aim of the campaign is to reverse the ‘No FFC No commission’ ruling. Why?

Let me begin by stating that calling the ruling ‘No FFC No Commission’ has been confusing to some of our fellow agents. In hindsight a better ‘title’ would have been ‘High Court rules: Estate agent is liable for EAAB inefficiency’ which would have been a more apt description of what transpired.

Our goal is that the court acknowledge that we had proven that our agency had fulfilled all the legal requirements to apply for a new FFC timeously; and therefore, should be entitled to commission. In other words, we were not at fault, and yet, commission was withheld from us since the EAAB incorrectly issued our FFC in the wrong name. The entire point of having this ruling reversed is so that the EAAB’s inefficiency does not prejudice another fellow agent/agency. The ruling, as it stands, makes the agent responsible for admitted errors on the part of the EAAB. Anyone who has been an agent for a reasonable amount of time can testify to the EAAB’s tardy nature, therefore, as it now stands if the EAAB fails to deliver or for whatever reason, an agent is not in possession of their FFC timeously (or it is printed incorrectly through no fault of their own), they cannot legally receive payment.

Won’t this benefit unregistered agents operating without FFCs?

Absolutely not! Even if we are successful it would not mean that those who have not complied can trade illegally. Signature is in no way advocating for estate agents trading without licence. Signature is 10 years old next year and have held a valid FFC for the last 10 years. We very much believe in regulating the industry and ensuring professional compliance.

Why a crowdfunding campaign?

The cost of litigation is immense, and we decided that since this ruling has the potential to sincerely effect every estate agent/agency in South Africa, why not ask our peers for assistance? Our view was that together we can make a difference and it was about time someone took a stance and championed for agents as a whole. I am incredibly passionate about my work and about the real estate industry in general.

How transparent is the campaign?

Signature has absolutely nothing to hide. The donations are reflected publicly on the Click n Donate Crowdfunding website or paid directly into an attorney trust. I receive a weekly financial report to see what donations have been made. We are keeping records of all income, as well as payments made directly to our legal team who provide us with detailed statements outlining what their invoices are made up of.

The ruling is a matter of public record so anyone wanting to read about the merits of the actual case we are appealing may do so. I have emailed the judgment on the leave to appeal to anyone who has asked, so that once again, people may see exactly what our counsel argued for which resulted in leave to appeal being granted. On that note it may be important to reiterate here again that the reason this matter was granted leave to appeal at Supreme Court level, was because there are conflicting judgments which the Supreme Court of Appeal and a full bench must rectify. The judge decided this, not Signature.

Any further queries may be directed to Romy Tarboton on email romy@signaturerealestate.co.za .

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