Property Law - How to lodge a legal complaint against an estate agent
The Estate Agency Affairs Board has made further enhancements to its website to improve service and efficiencies. This includes the establishment of an online process for lodging legal 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 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.
A guideline for using the online complaints lodgement process is provided below. Once the online complaint has been duly submitted, the complainant will immediately receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt thereof.
The online complaint form comprises three components, namely:
- Stage 1: General guidelines for initiating the on-line complaint.
- Stage 2: The electronic completion of the online complaint form.
- Stage 3: Submitting the complaint form.
STAGE 1 - General Guidelines
- Submit the online complaint once only. This will avoid any duplication which could delay the investigation of the complaint.
- The EAAB’s legal department will contact the complainant within 14 work 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 telephonically contacted on 087 285 3222 to establish progress.
- The proper investigation of complaints is a time-consuming process that can frequently take as long as 8 weeks, or more, to make significant progress. Complainants are kindly requested to refrain from contacting the EAAB until at least 8 weeks have elapsed from the date of the EAAB’s last communication.
- The EAAB does not have any jurisdiction over the actions of estate agents performed in their private capacity.
- The EAAB is not a civil court and may not usurp the powers of one.
- 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.
- Should any correspondence sent by the EAAB to the address provided by the complainant be returned by the postal authorities the case file will be summarily closed.
- 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 found a possible claim against the Estate Agents Fidelity Fund the complainant will be contacted by the EAAB Claims Department. That Department may well request additional information.
- A claim against the Estate Agents Fidelity Fubnd can only be considered after the finalization, or suspension, of the initial complaint.
Please take note of the following:
This complaint initiates an investigation that could lead to the institution of disciplinary proceedings against the respondent estate agent. The EAAB does not have the authority to, inter alia:
- order the estate agent to reimburse, or pay damages to, the complainant; or
- cancel, interpret or enforce a contract; or
- prevent an eviction; or
- order any party to do, or to refrain from carrying out, any action; or
- stop or intervene in any civil proceedings instituted against the complainant; or
- resolve labour disputes.
Should the complaint be in respect of one of the above categories, complainants are urged to seek independent legal advice. The completion of the online complaint will initiate an investigation by the EAAB into the alleged improper conduct of an estate agent acting in such capacity. 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 000,00 per individual count; or, in severe cases
- the withdrawal of a fidelity fund certificate, thereby putting that estate agent out of business.
STAGE 2 - Particulars of Complainant
Please Note: Fields marked * are mandatory and must be completed to initiate a complaint.
Complainants are obliged to inform the EAAB of any change of particulars after lodging a complaint.
Nature of Complaint
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. A copy of the founding complaint form will, accordingly, 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.
STAGE 3 - Submitting the complaint form
The following documents must be attached to the complaint form to support the complaint, namely:
If the complaint relates to the purchase or sale of immovable property:
- 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:
- The lease agreement.
- Proof of moneys paid as rent and/or deposit.
Courtesy: The EAAB - Estate Agency Affairs Board