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Here’s when an estate agent’s board is “Illegal”

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“For Sale”, “To Let”, “On Show” and “Sold” boards are as common in our cities and towns as the Jacarandas are in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

But did you know that not all estate agent boards are “legal”, and that many estate agents do not stick to the city’s respective by-law – which differs in part from city to city.

In the country’s most actively traded city of Johannesburg, estate agents have for a number of years been dealing with a “public servant” who has taken it upon himself to remove law-abiding and non-law-abiding real estate signage. While many in Johannesburg’s Northern suburbs know who he is, someone – another estate agent, civilian or Metro Police officer – has been placing “Illegal Board” stickers across many agents’ canvassing boards.

What does the by-law actually say about real estate signage? This is the excerpt on real estate advertising in the City of Johannesburg, as taught to all intern brokers.

Advertising signs relating to selling and letting of propertyestate-agent-boards

22 (1) Any of the following advertising signs relating to the letting or selling of property must comply with the following requirements:

(a) A sign not exceeding 600mm x 450mm in size containing the words “for sale” , “to let” or “sold” in respect of a dwelling house or residential building and displaying only the name, address and telephone number of the owner of the property or his or her estate agent, must be –

(i) placed on or attached to the building concerned;

(ii) attached parallel to a boundary fence or wall of the property concerned;

(iii) otherwise displayed within the boundaries of the property concerned;

(iv) on that part of a public street, other than the roadway, on which the property concerned fronts and directly in front of such property and subject to it not obstructing any pedestrian traffic; and

(v) limited, if an estate agent is involved, to one sign per estate agent per property;

(b) A single sign per street frontage of a property not exceeding 600mm x 450mm in size, which contains only the word “sold” and the name address and telephone number of the estate agent concerned, in respect of any dwelling house, or residential building, and which –

(i) is displayed only after every sign specified in paragraph (a) has been removed;

(ii) is placed, attached or displayed as specified in paragraph (a)(i), (ii) or (iii);

(c) A single sign not exceeding 8m² in extent per building flat on the façade of a non-residential building which contains only the words “for sale”, “to let” or “sold” and the name, address and telephone number of the owner or his or her estate agent, or only the word “sold” and the said particulars of the estate agent, for a period not exceeding 90 days;

(d) A sign not exceeding 600mm x 450mm in size, displayed on a vacant residential property, which displays only the words “for sale” and the name, address and telephone number of the owner or his or her estate agent concerned, or only the word “sold” and the name address and telephone number of that agent;

(e) A “for sale” sign must be limited to one sign per estate agent and may be displayed for a period not exceeding 90 days; and

(f) A single sign not exceeding 8m² in extent per property, on a vacant non-residential property, on which the words “for sale” or “to let” and the name, address and telephone number of the owner or his or her estate agent are displayed or the word “sold” and the name, address and telephone number of the estate agent concerned, may be displayed for a period of not exceeding 90 days;

(2) Not more than eight (8) directional signs and only on show days indicating the position of a property for sale or to let may be displayed by an estate agent and “show days” shall mean on Saturdays and Sundays only between the hours of 8H00 and 17H00 and such signs shall be removed daily at the conclusion of such show day.

Are there consequences for offenders?get out of jail resize

Estate agents, non-permanent boards that are not placed in designated advertising spaces, such as on public dustbins and street poles are actually illegal and if impounded by the Metro Police could end up costing you up to R1,000 per board – a figure we were quoted, though not from an official at the department.

Retrieving impounded boards is one thing; the by-laws do carry infringement penalties, too. According to the City of Johannesburg, an agent who contravenes the laws will be guilty of an offence and “upon conviction be liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding 20 years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment and the fine shall be calculated according to the ratio determined for such imprisonment in terms of the Adjustment of Fines Act”.

Harsh penalties for which many may call insignificant infringements in a country with a crime rate as high as ours. Remember ex New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “Broken Window” tactic against crime? Fix the “small” things first.

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david.steynberg@gmail.com

David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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