Property Practitioners Bill replaces the old Estate Agency Affairs Act and makes provision for an ombudsman
The Property Practitioners Bill which repeals the 43-year-old Estate Agency Affairs Act has finally been signed into law, and will take effect once published in the Government Gazette.
The Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Bill has also been signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and is expected to improve the turnaround time for providing deeds and documents to clients, says Nicolene Schoeman-Louw, an attorney at Schoemanlaw Inc Attorneys.
The bill is set to transform the property industry by, among other things, providing for a regulatory authority and ombudsman, and ensuring the inclusion of historically disadvantaged individuals.
The findings of the ombudsman will be equivalent to a magistrate’s court order. Schoeman-Louw says under the bill the term “property practitioner” will now also include a bond broker, home inspector, facilitator of an agreement or sale or lease – including a homeowners’ association, a seller of timeshare or fractional title, a property manager and a property developer.
“According to the bill, the Estate Agency Affairs Board is to be replaced as regulatory body by the Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority.” In terms of fidelity fund certificates, she says all grounds for disqualification from the current act remain in the new bill, but additions have been made:
A five-year time frame has been introduced relating to offences committed from the date of application for a certificate. If an offence is committed in this five-year period, it shall not be a ground for disqualification.
Where a person is found guilty of an offence involving dishonesty, such an offence shall be a ground for automatic disqualification only if the person has been sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.
Persons applying for a certificate must have a valid tax clearance certificate from the SA Revenue Service.
Valid BBBEE certificate. Persons on national treasury’s list of tender defaulters shall be disqualified from obtaining a fidelity fund certificate.
“These bills will definitely evolve the industry and therefore a more thorough consideration of the changes is needed on the part of any practitioner in the industry,” Schoeman-Louw says.
The bill is aimed at improving the functioning of the property market, which includes regulating the purchase, sale and renting of land and buildings. It introduces better monitoring mechanisms, including requiring inspectors to obtain warrants to enter premises, says Rali Mampeule, chief executive of the South African Housing and Infrastructure Fund.
He says the signing of the bill is a “progressive step in ensuring seamless processes and professional standards are adhered to in the real estate industry”.
“We welcome the signing of the Property Practitioners Act of 2019. This is a step in the right direction for the country and will play a crucial role in addressing other issues within the industry.”
He says the bill establishes a Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority and provides for the appointment of this authority’s board, which will be the continuation of the Estate Agency Affairs Board.
Until the bill is proclaimed in the Government Gazette, industry players need to continue working at upskilling all agents, says Cornel Haskins, sales manager at SAProperty.com.
She says there is currently a high rate of interns dropping out of the sector because of the lack of training and mentoring. They often find it daunting to complete either the NQF4 requirements or the log book the Estate Agency Affairs Board requires.
Having a good training provider and a company that mentors, supports and assists agents with their log books and NQF4 to complete and write the relevant exam is vital, she says.
Agencies can also partner with attorneys to assist with some of this.
“In this way, agents get the chance to ask all their relevant questions, learn of current and changing issues, and can be reinspired to be a specialist in their field. Keeping agents’ skills up to date and increasing interns’ knowledge of the industry is a necessity as the real estate sector is forever changing.
Continuous training helps agents stay motivated and provides better understanding of the happenings in the sector, and creates an urge to provide a better service to clients.”
Haskins says rogue agents have given the industry a bad reputation, and it is up to the Estate Agency Affairs Board and agencies to empower their agents to be equipped to give the best service possible.
“Buying or selling a home demands a lot of trust in the person dealing with the transaction as it is possibly the largest asset anyone will own. Vet the agent properly and don’t just go to someone you know or a friend of a friend.”