Who do you complain to if you are unhappy with the conduct of a real estate agent?
Belinda Moffat is chief executive of the Real Estate Authority (REA), the independent government agency that regulates the conduct of property professionals. Here she answers your buying and selling questions.
Q: Hello Belinda, we just bought our first home but we have some concerns about how the seller’s real estate agent handled things. Who do I complain to and how is it resolved?
A: Congratulations on the purchase of your first home. It’s always an exciting step.
However, I am sorry to hear that it was ruined for you by a bad experience with the real estate professional. It is part of REA’s job as an agency that regulates the conduct of property professionals to ensure licensees are held accountable for any breaches of conduct that are reported to us.
* Should I register with more than one real estate agency in a difficult market?
* Can real estate agents take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to property defects?
* Should we have our house done or sold “as is where is”?
Your first step should be to speak directly to the agency about the problem. All licensed agencies are required to have their own complaint resolution process, and they are often very keen to address and resolve a client’s issue directly.
When we receive a complaint, we first call you, the complainant, to ensure we understand the subject of the complaint and to assess whether it is within REA’s jurisdiction. We have an Early Resolution Team who can help liaise and mediate between you and the agency on lower level conduct issues, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable resolution. This approach is often very successful.
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If early resolution is not successful (or if you choose not to go that route), we can move on to our more formal complaint and discipline process. Where there has potentially been a serious breach of our Code of Conduct and/or serious harm, we refer your complaint to one of the Independent Complaints Review Panels.
This independent commission can investigate your complaint, formally rule on whether or not there has been a violation of the rules of conduct and, if necessary, order the license holder to pay a fine, undergo training, reduce or to reimburse the fees paid to him and to impose other types of formal censorship.
The most serious finding against a licensee that the committee can make is “unsatisfactory conduct”. If the code has been seriously breached, the committee may also bring a misconduct complaint to the Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. The Tribunal is appointed by the Ministry of Justice and is separate and independent from the REA.
The Tribunal could issue a finding of misconduct against a licensee and order more severe penalties, including higher fines, suspension or cancellation of the license and/or compensation orders. If a party disagrees with the decision of the Tribunal, they have the right to appeal to the High Court.
REA maintains a public register of all licensed estate agents, salespeople, branch managers and businesses, so you can check that the person you are dealing with is licensed and, more importantly, see if they have received any complaints against them during of the last three years.
Of the over 16,000 real estate dealers currently active in our system, the overwhelming majority will never have received a formal complaint against them. To put this into perspective, in the last financial year around 100,000 properties were bought and sold in New Zealand, while over this period the REA only received 320 formal complaints. But if you’ve been directly affected by misbehaviour, that’s what matters to you.
For more information on the process of buying or selling property and what to expect when working with a property professional, go to settlement.govt.nz, or for more information about the complaints process or to file a formal complaint, go to rea.govt. nz. Have a question for Belinda? Email [email protected]