Is SA’s real estate regulator world-class?

MAIN IMAGE: Tony Clarke, managing director Rawson Property Group; Judy Ferdenando, former principal; Andrica Lekganyane, CEO Area Group Property Services.

The CEO of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) stated in their latest annual report “Our vision is to be a sound and trusted world-class regulator that is responsive to and surpasses its stakeholder expectations”. Is this true?

Social media is rife with complaints levelled by estate agents at the regulator, many such comments are mailed to this publication. Industry body Rebosa claims to be overwhelmed by complaints and cries for help.

Issues range from the delayed issuing of Fidelity Fund Certificates (FFCs) to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses not being available online and often a total lack of response on queries logged on the EAAB system.

Then there are the audit reports. The industry is practically frantic about the looming date for the submission of audit reports, that is on 30 June. Many agencies will of necessity not be able to comply with the deadline. Various industry bodies have been requesting the EAAB for some leeway as auditors simply could not complete reports during the lockdown.

According to Mamodupi Mohlala, CEO of the EAAB, the matter was referred to the Department of Human Settlements Minister and unfortunately no response has been forthcoming.

Also read: How will the EAAB assist estate agents in Level 3?

“This is a very serious matter as it has led to huge penalties and even cancellation of FFC’s in the past. The industry needs security and cannot be expected to do the impossible, you simply cannot get blood from a stone. Estate agency principals cannot understand why the Minister had to be consulted on something that is entirely the responsibility of the EAAB. The Act determines when the audit must be done but the EAAB decides what happens when the deadline is missed. An announcement that agencies would not be penalised before say, 1 November would have put our minds at rest,” says Tony Clarke, managing director of Rawson Property Group.

After 30 years in the real estate industry, Judy Ferdenando decided to deregister her estate agency and register as an ordinary estate agent. It is now five years later, and the deregistration still hasn’t been processed. Consequently, she found herself blocked when she tried to register as an agent and was unable to earn an income in this way. The final straw was when she received a R1000 fine this year for an overdue balance on her company’s account with no explanation. “I literally gave up on the industry. A world-class service? They are not even delivering a South African experience. People are going through hell because they (EAAB) has staff that know nothing about the industry. They don’t understand if an agent doesn’t have an FFC he/she is not entitled to a commission. Their departments also appear to be working in isolation from one another – this is not what one would expect from a world-class service,” she says. Ferdenando also spent 18 years on the disciplinary committee of the EAAB.

“The Estate Agency Affairs Board is the key driver in ensuring that the needs, not only of the public but of all estate agents are prioritised and attended to within a reasonable time frame. However, estate agents throughout the country are frustrated with the level of professionalism portrayed by the EAAB. As a regulatory body in the sector, we expect the board to uphold the highest level of service delivery, in order to improve the lives of the people we serve as estate agents and to create employment opportunities for those wishing to enter the market. To date, it is already difficult to survive as an emerging entrepreneur in the industry and while we expect the board to deal with other pertinent issues such as transformation, they seem to be making it even more difficult for everyone, especially small businesses, to survive in the sector. We are not against the regulatory body (EAAB) but their turn-around-time in attending to important issues, such as issuing FFCs, attending to PDI exemptions, issues relating to CPDs, and other matters, can be improved. The EAAB should be a friend of the industry and not the opposite, they should improve their systems and hold employees accountable for poor service delivery. We should all Team Up and ‘surpass the expectations of all stakeholders’,” says Andrica Lekganyane, CEO Area Group Property Services.

Is SA’s real estate regulator world-class?

Bryan Biehler, managing director Huizemark Franchise Group; Iona Scholtz, principal Iona Scholtz Properties; Bruce Swain, CEO Leapfrog

CPD is a burning issue and many agents wanted to get it done during lockdown but could not get access, apparently the courses are not ready yet and payments made are not allocated. Says Bryan Biehler, managing director of Huizemark Franchise Group: “CPD is a ‘grudge’ purchase as the current content does little for an estate agent. It is expensive for what it is, no wonder that Ms Mohlala recently made mention of the fact that it is the single biggest income stream for the EAAB! We were invoiced in January but still have no access to courses – this does not serve the industry.”

Principal Iona Scholtz also laments this year’s total lack of provision for online CPD courses. She says usually by February the EAAB’s CPD tutoring videos were available for the agents to watch online. Unfortunately, this has not been the case this year. Scholtz says “Most of us paid our CPD fees at the beginning of 2020 as was demanded of us. Jump forward to June 2020 and there has not been a single event planned due to Covid lockdown and not a single event has been pre-recorded by the various lecturers so that we can continue with the 2020 CPD which we have already paid for. My gym has recorded hundreds of online sessions for us to watch and exercise to. Many churches have gone online. Many companies are training online. I am curious why the EAAB has not managed to record a single lecture for us to proceed with the online CPD training?”

“The regulator disappointed during the lockdown. For weeks on end all we heard from the EAAB was about their internal arrangements about closing their office. As I understand it they could have opened on 29 April or at least on the 1st of June, but that is still not the case. Even the recently published guidelines for operation was published 15 days after the industry went back to work,” says Bruce Swain, CEO Leapfrog.

Jan le Roux CE of Rebosa, raises another point “On 16 August 2017 the EAAB announced the arrangement of a Professional Indemnity Policy by the EAAB on behalf of all registered estate agents. Having information that this policy was terminated in June 2019 we have asked the EAAB repeatedly to confirm the existence thereof. In fact, there is no policy in place and yet industry has not been advised accordingly. This means that agents thinking that they still enjoy the cover as promised will be disappointed should a claim arise. It is irresponsible to leave the industry under such an illusion. Agents are best advised to arrange their own insurance.”

“It appears the regulator has a lot to answer for. We have been advised that many of these service issues are directly linked to the IT system which apparently is cracking at the seams. Quotes are being obtained to improve or replace the system but evidently such steps will not make a difference this year.

“The EAAB should and can be a world class regulator, we will assist wherever possible to make this happen,” says Le Roux

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