Is SA’s real estate regulator world-class?

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

Surely, there must be positive feedback. Please comment below.

Showing 13 comments
  • Ian Badenhorst

    I am of the strong opinion that the EAAB and or it leaders are simply not interested in this industry and as such are not bothered to develop the property sector with their leadership which is consistently rubbish and useless as well as of no value to this sector of the economy.

    I believe we should as a industry just ignore their existence by protest, until a trusted and professional leadership and service can be established by the industry self regulating under The Department of Human Settlements. Maybe Rebosa can take on this challenge and secure support and assistance from within the industry.

  • Janet

    Terrible service from EAAB – all they do is forward our email queries on to someone else! Something needs to change!

  • Chris de Jager

    The EAAB is only a job creation institution which adds NO value to the industry.
    It’s got NO right of existence. The first thing they ask before not delivering any service is money.
    I have never come across any institution with such an overwhelming bunch of incompetent people. The EAAB is a disgrace in all aspects of what it thinks it can do.
    World-class??? It serves no purpose to the property industry and is not even second-class.

  • Elna Ungerer

    The EAAB has been extremely incompetent in replying to my emails or answering my calls regarding me not receiving my FFC for 2 years, while happily accepting my fees.
    Phone calls and emails get ignored. They eventually informed that I as agent as well as principal were deregistered – but they could never reply for what reason and what I could do to prevent this. Your help reinstating myself as principal as well as agent will be highly appreciated.

  • Linda

    It is actually to impossible to gauge the level of service being delivered as it is so dismal that it does not reach a level. I am of belief that the easiest way for this to be turned around is for the EAAB to invest in a world-class online system. The main issue we sit with is caused by them attempting to deliver online with a system not designed to be able to deliver. There are many online businesses that run a pure online system from registering, ordering, paying and delivering. This is not a new invention that requires years of research. Their first point of transformation should be transforming themselves to be able to deliver to an industry that has for too many years just put up with bad service. Less time spent on issuing long and convoluted emails explaining why they cannot and more time actually doing. COVID-19 is the best excuse that has come along for now they have an actual “reality” that we all have witnessed. If they had done the investment on the infrastructure and ensured we had a world-class online system, the agents would have been able to function regardless of them being in office or not!

  • karen

    The FSP industry as well as the Attorneys have received an extension for audits for their respective industries. Why is the EAAB not following this trend? Are they even aware of what is going on in their own industry; and how tough it has been to get auditors in and get financial statements done?

  • Carol Higgs

    The EAAB does not offer any service at all!!! The income they derive from the R2000 CPD annual fees per agent in South Africa is merely for their “gravy train” benefit and NOT for the benefit of agents’ skills training! It would be great to be able to see where all this money is being spent!!!!!

  • Harry

    The EAAB was missing the action even before the new CEO made all her promises to fix the establishment and its problems.

    I wonder if we had to disappear like the EAAB did when COVID 19 hit us? What would have happened to our businesses and staff we employ? You just have to be on social media to see the frustration of the industry as a whole.

    The EAAB showed zero compassion towards their clients (estate agents) during this COVID 19 lockdown….in other words they did nothing to HELP us.

    Daily operational tasks for example to match a payment on a bank statement with an account on their system – they can’t even do that!

    As an estate agent with 14 years experience I don’t feel represented by my regulative body (EAAB) at all. I feel left out in the COLD trying to survive on my own with the added stress of the audits that needs to be in by the end of June 2020 and the CPD that I paid for but can’t use to further my skills.

    This is a 2020 HORROR story featuring the EAAB and its CEO clearly not giving a damn about the real estate industry at all.

    All we can say is thank you to REBOSA & newly formed NPPC for keeping us informed and for trying to get us working ASAP. We salute your efforts and appreciate your intervention in representing us. All of us!

    The EAAB is not interested in the property industry and it shows through their responses that they have communicated so far. It says nothing that we don’t know already and says more about why they won’t work from their offices anytime soon than how they are HELPING the estate agents through these tough times.

    They are probably on full salary in these times? So why would they even bother?

    Anyhow, now I feel better that I got a real chance of voicing my frustrations on ground level.

    It is evident that the EAAB is far removed from what is actually happening on the ground. And that is a fact!

  • lionel

    I registered last year and payed the fees. I sent proof of payment three times already, but until now not a single response from them after over twenty emails.
    Why are they there?

  • Gerhard (Gee) Kruger

    I am going to be the one person that does not agree 100% with the above. I deal every day with the staff of the EAAB and get FFC issued daily. The reason a lot of these challenges are agent, principal related. Yes, there are technical issues but that is not the end. Regarding audits, that would and could have been ready by end-March, why wait till the final day to do that.

    • Stone Whall

      Gee, thanks for your helpful & mildly patronising comment Mr Kruger.
      I seem to have forgotten to plan ahead for the Covid disruption. Oh wait – it arrived unannounced!
      Do you express the same lack of understanding & courtesy for all your clients?

  • Loren

    I would like to know who in the real estate industry ever thought for one second the EAAB is there to support, educate and uphold the needs of the industry?

    Nonsense – The EAAB is a public service and serves the general public NOT estate agents / agencies – if a member of the public feels done in by an agency or an estate agent for that matter, they log a complaint to EAAB and within 24 hours that agency/estate agent has a mail in their inbox requiring an explanation with proof of their version of events or face a hearing…. what does this tell you?

    The sooner the industry sets up it’s own regulator and/or body to support the needs of industry the better with a fund for agents who are in need of financial assistance whether in food vouchers or airtime, or medical expenses the better.

  • James Otter

    It is the VISION or IDEAL the EAAB is seeking to attain and we, as property practitioners, should wish them success in this endeavor.

    The EAAB is not there for the benefit of property practitioners. Its purpose is to regulate property practitioners in serving the public interest by restricting and imposing on property practitioners in terms of legislation.

    The Institute of Estate Agents is a professional body serving the interests of property practitioners and interacts on their behalf with the EAAB

    REBOSA is a body serving the interests of estate agencies (in effect the larger
    agencies) and interacts on their behalf with the EAAB.

    The EAAB controls the industry via legislation, we are merely one of several stakeholders.

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