Let­ting agents are viewed as in­ter­me­di­aries be­tween land­lords and ten­ants. But what do you do if there are snags with the agent?

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

JUST about ev­ery week, is­sues be­tween land­lords and ten­ants crop up in my in­box. It’s usu­ally the same­old com­plaints: ten­ants don’t pay, are a nui­sance or dam­age prop­erty; or land­lords abuse their power.

Es­tate agents though, don’t come off par­tic­u­larly well ei­ther.

Keshini (sur­name with­held) and her fi­ancé own a prop­erty in Cen­tu­rion, which they let out through the nearby Just Let­ting branch.

The ten­ant, who was ap­par­ently screened and credit-checked by said branch, turned out to be a night­mare. Keshini said not only did the ten­ant dam­age prop­erty and ab­scond with a hefty coun­cil bill, he was also abu­sive to­wards their other ten­ant. He’s since be­come un­trace­able, but the branch is hold­ing on to the de­posit. The sub­se­quent losses suf­fered by the cou­ple ex­ceed R60 000. They say they sim­ply want ac­cess to that de­posit. But the branch prin­ci­pal, Lance Nowitz, is not budg­ing.

He told Keshini: “I have not re­fused to pay the de­posit, I have sim­ply asked that the reg­u­lat­ing body get in­volved, ie Es­tate Agency Af­fairs Board (EAAB), which has been our po­si­tion from the be­gin­ning. Just Prop­erty has also sus­tained dam­ages in that we have paid staff for their work (com­mis­sion on the full lease) as well as ex­pended much time and ef­fort on this prop­erty with the dif­fi­cul­ties that came with it. We also in­cur mas­sive costs find­ing ten­ants and be­ing in po­si­tion to do our work.

“The lease that was signed was signed with spe­cial con­di­tions that the owner was go­ing to fix many of the is­sues/items that were bro­ken at the unit. An ad­den­dum with the full list was also signed to that ef­fect. The owner did not fix the items on the list and there­fore did not ful­fil the con­di­tion on the lease.

“That be­ing the case, many ques­tions are raised as to li­a­bil­ity and re­course, which is why we want the EAAB in­volved, be­cause we want the rul­ing to be fair to both you and us.”

Not so, Keshini in­sists, hav­ing taken up the issue with the EAAB. Just Let­ting Cen­tu­rion vet­ted the ten­ant and she and her fi­ancé only stopped at­tend­ing to is­sues on the prop­erty when the ten­ant stopped pay­ing.

I asked Just Let­ting’s head of­fice about this but they said the fran­chise holder’s po­si­tion on the mat­ter does not re­flect their own.

They had no an­swer though when I pointed out that one branch can sully the rep­u­ta­tion of the en­tire group.

What, though, is the Es­tate Agency Af­fairs Board’s po­si­tion? I asked Jimmy Baloyi, the ex­ec­u­tive man­ager of the board’s en­force­ment and com­pli­ance depart­ment, about Keshini’s mat­ter and he sug­gested she first lodge an on­line com­plaint (, be­fore any ac­tion could be taken.

How­ever, he later in­formed her that the board wasn’t able to force the agent into re­leas­ing the funds – she would first need to pur­sue le­gal op­tion

against the agent be­fore any claim could be in­sti­tuted against the Fi­delity Fund.

“The role of the board is, in terms of Section 7 (of the Es­tate Agency Af­fairs Act 112, of 1976) to main­tain and pro­mote the stan­dard of con­duct of es­tate agents and reg­u­late the ac­tiv­i­ties of es­tate agents in the pub­lic in­ter­est. The board can only un­der­take dis­ci­plinary in­ves­ti­ga­tions ow­ing to the man­ner in which an es­tate agent con­ducted him/ her­self when ren­der­ing their pro­fes­sional ser­vices to a mem­ber of the pub­lic.

“The board is not au­tho­rised to per­form the func­tion of a court of law, and there­fore can­not or­der the agent to re­im­burse the land­lord, for in­stance, and nei­ther can the board award dam­ages to the land­lord as re­sult of the fault on the part of an es­tate agent. How­ever, the board is au­tho­rised to ad­ju­di­cate upon the con­duct of an es­tate agent that led to the land­lord suf­fer­ing dam­ages and levy a penalty in that re­gard.”

It might well be time for change then, be­cause Section 19 of the Act obliges any­one who claims against the Fi­delity Fund of the board to take all the “nec­es­sary le­gal steps” be­fore they can ap­proach the board and lodge such a claim.

“That is what the law says,” he told me, adding: “The board has al­ready taken dis­ci­plinary steps in this mat­ter wherein we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­duct of the es­tate agent and the mat­ter will, in due course, serve be­fore the dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee of the board for hear­ing.”

The penal­ties in­clude a fine of “up to R25 000, with­drawal of a Fi­delity Fund cer­tifi­cate (which is a li­cence to prac­tice) or a rep­ri­mand,” he said, adding that the law does not al­low them to do more.

The sys­tem does favour the agents: how many peo­ple have the means to pur­sue le­gal ac­tion? Es­pe­cially when you’re al­ready out of pocket?

Hardly seems fair, does it?


Rent­ing out your prop­erty can cost you a for­tune if the terms and con­di­tions aren’t 100 per­cent clear-cut, and a night­mare ten­ant can cost a lot of money, this con­sumer has found.

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