Questions relating to the most efficient way of lodging a complaint against an estate agent, and the time line that is followed by the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) once a complaint has been lodged, have been provided to HomeTimes following the publication of a number of articles referring to errant estate agents.
The EAAB says it “has made further enhancements to its website to improve service and efficiencies. This includes the establishment of an online process for lodging complaints of improper conduct against offending estate agents.
“This innovation will not only greatly assist both estate agents and consumers in using a more streamlined process for this purpose but (will) also enable the EAAB better to fulfil its primary mandate of protecting members of the public in their dealings with estate agents and increasing consumer awareness while still having regard to the interests of the estate agency sector.
“Once the online complaint has been duly submitted, the complainant will immediately receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt (of the complaint).”
The online complaint form comprises three components:
- General guidelines for initiating the online complaint
- The electronic completion of the online complaint form
- Submitting the complaint form
Expanding on the subject of the general guidelines, the EAAB requests that complainants submit the online complaint once only to avoid any duplication which could delay the investigation of the complaint.
“The EAAB’s legal department will contact the complainant within 14 working days from the date when the complaint was lodged and provide the complainant with both a complaint reference number and a notification on progress made. If the complainant has not heard from the EAAB within that period the call centre should be contacted on 087 285 3222 to establish progress.”
The board says complainants should not contact the EAAB to check progress for at least eight weeks after the last communication from the board as the “proper investigation of complaints is a time-consuming process”.
The EAAB points out that it does not have any jurisdiction over the actions of estate agents performed in their private capacity, nor is the board a civil court and therefore “may not usurp the powers” of such a court.
“Should the complaint, after investigation, be referred to a disciplinary enquiry for hearing the complainant must be present to adduce evidence against the respondent estate agent,” the EAAB said in a statement to HomeTimes.
The EAAB warns that the case file referencing the complaint will be closed immediately if any correspondence sent by the EAAB to the address provided by the complainant is returned by the postal authorities. Any further documentation that might be requested by the EAAB in respect of a particular complaint must be addressed to the person requesting that documentation at the number/address provided.
“Should the complaint be deemed to find a possible claim against the estate agent’s Fidelity Fund the complainant will be contacted by the EAAB Claims Department. That department may request additional information. A claim against the estate agent’s Fidelity Fund can be considered only after the finalisation or suspension of the initial complaint.”
Ring fencing its authority in terms of the relief it can grant arising from a complaint, the EAAB says a complaint initiates an investigation that could lead to the institution of disciplinary proceedings against the respondent estate agent but the EAAB does not have the authority to:
- order the estate agent to reimburse or pay damages to the complainant
- cancel, interpret or enforce a contract
- prevent an eviction
- order any party to do or to refrain from carrying out any action
- stop or intervene in any civil proceedings instituted against the complainant
- resolve labour disputes.
“Should the complaint be in respect of one of the above categories, complainants are urged to seek independent legal advice.
“In terms of the Estate Agency Affairs Act, an estate agent found guilty of improper conduct by a Committee of Inquiry of the Board may be sentenced to a reprimand, a maximum fine of R25,000 per individual count; or, in severe cases, the withdrawal of a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) thereby putting that estate agent out of business.
Referring to particulars of the complainant loaded onto the online complaint form, the EAAB stresses that fields marked with an asterisk (*) are mandatory and must be completed to initiate a complaint. Complainants must inform the EAAB of any change of particulars after lodging a complaint.
Referring to the nature of the complaint, the board advises that complainants must provide a description of the conduct of the estate agent that has aggrieved them.
“It is important to note that, in pursuance of the audi alteram partem (or ‘let the other side be heard’) principle, no person may be judged without having first been given the opportunity of responding either to any allegations that have been made against them or to any evidence that may be adduced.”
Therefore, a copy of the founding complaint form will be sent by the EAAB to the respondent estate agent for comment.
“Complainants are thus strongly cautioned to be as objective as possible when making the complaint and not under any circumstances to make any disparaging or defamatory remarks that could result in the respondent estate agent initiating civil action against the complainant.”
The board identifies the documents that must be attached to the complaint form to support the complaint.
If the complaint relates to the purchase or sale of immovable property, then the documents that must be submitted with the complaint are:
- The sale agreement and /or Offer to Purchase
- The mandate granted to the estate agent, if in writing.
If the complaint relates to the leasing of immovable property, then the documents that must be submitted are:
- The lease agreement
- Proof of monies paid as rent and/or deposit.
Lodge your complaint here
Words: Blake Wilkins