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New action taken by Estate Agency Affairs Board to halt illegal operators in their tracks

If your estate agent doesn’t have a Fidelity Fund Certificate – a valid licence to operate when they sell or rent your property – legally they are not permitted to charge any commission for their services. 

More importantly, they are not even allowed to operate as an estate agent – much less earn a living from the trade. What’s alarming about this is that, according to the Estate Agency Affairs Board, about 10 years ago there were as many as 80 000 registered estate agents whereas today this figure is closerto 30 000. 
If still in business, that puts 50 000 as the number of agents potentially operating illegally in SA. What this means for consumers is they could avoid paying commission. In a world that’s full of scam artists, consumers must become savvier to protect themselves. This is particularly true in the case of a property sale where transactions generally involve vast sums of money. Believing the board is unlikely to ever catch them, these rogue operators flout the law and take chances. 
What they haven’t counted on is the official industry body putting measures in place to verify the legitimacy of estate agents and that’s exactly what’s happened. A new counter fraud device provided by PrivySeal is now mandatory for all registered estate agents and distinguishes the genuine operators from the fakes. 
Attorney Stephen Logan, the inspiration behind PrivySeal, says a Privyseal is a digital seal of authenticity that only displays if a qualification has been verified as genuine. More than that – it displays the date and time a qualification was last checked. “With qualifications digitally
checked every few minutes, the process provides real time online verification,” says Logan. 
“By
clicking on a Privyseal, consumers can access details about the qualification holder, including their registered contact details which
are drawn from the database of the qualification authority.” 
Logan adds that anyone with
an Estate Agency Affairs Board Privyseal – an agent or agency – is able to prove they are properly registered and their current good
standing has been verified. “By working with a registered professional, consumers have greater protection and recourse should anything go wrong.” The Privyseals are already being used by a wide range of organisations, including the Institute of Directors, Law Societies and the South African Qualifications Authority. 
The board was the first industry regulator to make the use of Privyseals mandatory. Margie Campbell, the board’s marketing manager, says: “Thanks to the support of key industry stakeholders,
including the SA Property Owners Association, Institute of Estate Agents of SA, Real Estate Business Owners of SA and the SA Institute of Architects, all registered estate agents and registered estate agency enterprises must display their Estate Agency Affairs Board Privyseals as a means of countering qualification fraud and protecting the public and legitimate estate agents. 
“If your estate agent doesn’t have a Privyseal, they have very likely not been issued with a valid fidelity fund certificate by the board. In terms of the Estate Agency Affairs Act unregistered estate agents are not entitled to any remuneration for estate agency services rendered,” says Campbell. 
“The board has paid for every registered estate agent to obtain
a Privyseal. So there is no valid reason why a properly registered estate agent in good standing should not use a Privyseal.” 
To date over 19 000 Privyseals have been issued to compliant estate agents. They must be displayed by all registered estate agents in their email signature, their online and social media profiles, alongside property listings and in all marketing material. “If your estate agent isn’t showing off their Estate Agency Affairs Board Privyseal in their email, ask to see it or look for another estate agent because if they aren’t proudly displaying this certification, they could possibly be operating illegally
under the radar. 
“An advanced authentication system that protects consumers in an age where cybercrime, identity theft and fraud are at an all-time high; PrivySeal is the next frontier in proving people are the real deal.” 
A board Privyseal will reflect the current date and time, but to further corroborate the information, check that it links to the agent’s hyperlinked EAAB Certificate of Verification on www.privyseal.com. While you could request a copy of their fidelity fund certificate, the strength of a Privyseal is the company constantly checks the EAAB database, making it more reliable than a printed fidelity fund certificate that could potentially have been withdrawn or doctored. Privyseals are already being displayed by registered estate agents on recognised industry sites like property24.com, privateproperty.co.za, iolproperty.co.za, and myproperty.co.za.
For more details go to: www.privyseal.com.
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