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Our estate agent has stolen our deposit. Now what?

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Q

Hi, we recently dealt with an estate agent that has stolen our deposit and we are struggling to get this amount back from him.

I am including the offer to purchase and addendum for which he has charged us R5,000, and then a Letter of Demand which has the latest outstanding amount on it.

Basically our deposit was meant to be kept in a trust account and when the transferring attorneys asked for the deposit to be transferred he said he had debts which needed to be paid, leaving us short of approximately R70,000.

We’ve since laid a complaint with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) which wants to find in our favour at the end of November 2017, but need to have a hearing with the estate agent first. We’ve also found out that neither he nor his company has been registered with the EAAB since 2014.

We’ve also laid criminal charges but the prosecutor does not want to proceed as there is a contract in place which seems very odd and we are not sure where to go from here.

For us to proceed with the civil matter is not really an option as we have spent all of our available funds on the deposit and this agent continues as if nothing is wrong. The EAAB will not pay out our claim unless we exhaust legal avenues. How do we get him to a court for criminal charges? – Tyron

A

Hi Tyron, the EAAB’s insurance (Fidelity Fund) does cover agents/agencies who are not registered with them. If you did report the matter to the EAAB, the EAAB will most probably have an initial hearing against the agent, however, you should contact the EAAB and institute a claim against the Fidelity Fund directly in order to claim your.

Furthermore, you should contact the station commander at the SAPS and confirm that the relevant police officer does not want to proceed with a criminal charge against the agent. Irrespective of any contract in place, theft is theft.

The Estate Agency Affairs Board last year launched the digital accreditation programme, PrivySeal, which hopes to protect the public against illegal operators in the property industry.joe soap privyseal

PrivySeal is a digital seal which offers a hyperlinked verification certificate that confirms the real-time registration status of the estate agent in question. This summarises the agent’s professional credentials and enables members of the public to check that the person they are dealing with is registered and suitably qualified in their field.

The PrivySeal is only displayed once it is confirmed via the EAAB’s database that the agent concerned has a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC). The PrivySeal should be embedded into all agents’ email signatures and their digital media such as websites and social media profiles.


Got a burning question? Email mariette@hometimes.co.za and we’ll do our best to get your question answered


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Answered by Charlene Nolte-Jourbert, attorney and conveyancer at Henkes Nolte-Joubert Attorneys

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ungerermariette@gmail.com

Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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