Saturday, March 23

Property agent’s bill could be law by end of year

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The Property Practitioner’s Bill is steadily making headway through the various governmental channels and could become law by the end of the year. Considering the importance of the bill, a summit dealing with its contents may also take place. 

The bill – which will repeal the Estate Agency Affairs Act of 1976 – aims to transform the property industry by, among other things, establishing a regulatory authority, appointing an ombudsman, and ensuring the inclusion and participation of historically disadvantaged individuals.

On June 14 the bill was introduced to the National Assembly and 12 days later the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements was briefed on it by the national department.
Portfolio committee chairperson Nocawe Mafu says an advertisement calling for written submissions on the bill will be published in newspapers in all languages this weekend. People have 30 days in which to comment.

“Once all comments have been compiled, parliament will embark on a process of public hearings. There is still opportunity for people to comment on the bill. We are also toying with the idea of having a summit as this is a very important piece of legislation,” she says.

Following the public hearings and possible summit, the bill could come into effect as early as the end of the year.

“That is our aim,” Mafu says, adding that if it is not passed by then, it will be at the beginning of next year.

During the briefing by the national department, the primary concern of members of the portfolio committee included:

  • The amount of power bestowed on inspectors.
  • Having too many ombuds in the property sector.
  • The incorporation of unregulated real estate agents into the regulated market.
  • The use and prevention of abuse of the transformation fund which is designed to transform the sector.
  • The need to create a standalone chapter for transformation. Records of the meeting disclosed that Mafu expressed hope the old legislation “can finally be made right”, which, in her opinion, would be one of the greatest achievements of the committee.

The seven major changes to the Estate Agency Affairs Act of 1976 are:

  • Creating a new definition of a property practitioner by expanding the spectrum of the previous one.
  • Establishing an ombudsman, or an office to attend to consumer complaints.
  • Extending the powers of inspectors to include searching property.
  • Disqualification of a property practitioner who does not possess proper certification of a fidelity fund and tax clearance certificate.
  • Requiring the possession of a BEE certificate.
  • Requiring practitioners to keep documents for at least 10 years.
  • Making practitioners fill out a compulsory disclosure form when buying or selling property.

Khwezi Ngwenya, acting chief director of legal services at the national department of human settlements, reinforced the statement that the primary purpose of this bill was to repeal the 1976 act and thereby provide better control of estate agencies in the interest of the people or consumers. Furthermore, he said the 40-year-old legislation needed replacement because not only do new players in the market over the following years need to be regulated, but the act was not in alignment with the national constitution and other current legislation.

The main objectives of the bill, said Ngwenya, were to “transform the property market by ensuring it is a reflection of the South African demographic, create alignment with the constitution and other relevant pieces of legislation, enhance corporate efficiency” and professionalise the industry.

Explaining the significance of the bill to committee members, Mafu said it had the power to transform the sector by “levelling the playing field” so that those wanting to participate in this market could do so.

She also hoped the demographic of real estate agents would soon reflect the demographic of the country. However, the bill is not currently in its final form and will continue to be scrutinised, with Mafu saying that there is still enough time to rewrite it if necessary.

Other acts in the pipeline 

The property Practitioner’s Bill is not the only property-related bill going through the processes of being passed.

Before the National Assembly are the:

  • Expropriation Bill, which will allow for the expropriation of property for a public purpose or in the public interest, subject to equitable compensation.
  • Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Bill, which seeks to provide for electronic deeds registration, having regard to legislation regulating electronic communication and transactions. The Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill, which is before the National Council of Provinces, aims to amend the Communal Property Associations Act of 1996, to provide clarity on the objective of communal property associations; extend the application of the act to certain labour tenants who acquired land; and to provide for the establishment of a Communal Property Associations office and appointment of a Communal Property Associations registrar.

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