Bay real estate agents spark 84 complaints

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Bay of Plenty real estate agents have triggered more than 80 complaints to an industry watchdog since it was set up nearly three years ago.

But a local industry spokesman says the high number of complaints reflects the emotions of buying and selling homes, and the impossibility of pleasing everybody.

More than 2000 complaints have been lodged with the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) since its launch in November 2009 - 84 against Western Bay of Plenty agents.

While the Bay figures appeared high, most of the complaints weren't upheld, managing director of Harcourts Advantage Realty Bay of Plenty, Simon Martin said.

"If you look at how many properties, have been sold - compared to the amount of complaints that have been upheld in that time, I think that it's pretty minimal."

Mr Martin said that in a situation where two people were bidding on the same property, "you're always going to get somebody who misses out and often that person who misses out is not very happy about it".

"It's really hard to keep everybody happy when there's a lot of money at stake and a lot of emotions at stake as well."

It emerged this week that a high-profile Hawke's Bay real estate agent is being investigated by the REAA for an improper act while running a client's open home.

The agent, who has name suppression, was dismissed from Tremain Real Estate last month after witnesses saw his actions at the open home in Havelock North.

It is understood he was alone in the house at the time.

Recent complaints about agents to the REAA which amounted to "misconduct" include:

An agent who forged a signature on a settlement notice for the purposes of showing that a sale had taken place when it hadn't.

An agent who sold a car park she did not own and then failed to refund the deposit. The same agent is also alleged to have placed undue pressure on the vendors of a property.

An agent who did not inform purchasers that she had not been inside a property.

Mr Martin said the authority had pulled rogue agents into line more than its predecessor did.

"The penalties are a bit more severe and they've got a bit more horsepower to sort things out."

Nationwide, there were 13,007 real estate agents actively licensed with the REAA at the end of August.

Of the 84 Bay of Plenty complaints, nine were ruled to be "unsatisfactory conduct", 28 warranted "no further action" and 47 were either withdrawn, resolved, not inquired into by the REAA, or remain open.

Mr Martin said the number of complaints which didn't go anywhere showed the level of "frivolous and vexatious" complaints the authority received. There were only a small number in the industry who weren't doing things right, who had since began to toe the line, Mr Martin said.

Neville Falconer, of Tauranga LJ Hooker, said he thought the objectives of the Act (which brought in the REAA) are great but whether or not having it is the best way to go about it is up for discussion.

"The changes that were brought in when the new Act came into force greatly improved the level of communication. I think that's a good thing," he said.

The REAA is a Crown entity which regulates real estate agents, branch managers and salespeople under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 - taking over from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) as the industry's regulatory body.

Agents, branch managers and salespeople are all required to be licensed under the act.

"The Real Estate Agents Authority was established to help protect buyers and sellers of property and to ensure a high standard of service and professionalism in the New Zealand real estate industry," chief executive Kevin Lampen-Smith said.

"As well as regulating the industry and providing information for buyers and sellers, we are responsible for dealing with complaints against real estate agents and run an independent, open and fair complaints process."

Complaints about agents are first lodged with REAA, with the more serious referred to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. The two Government organisations investigate then hear cases against agents - many who later appeal the decisions.

REAA spokeswoman Ngaire Vanderhoof said if an agent's action was found to have breached the act, the tribunal's Complaints Assessment Committee could decide on one of several possible outcomes.

An agent could be found to have committed "unsatisfactory conduct" or a more serious charge of "misconduct", which can result in charges being laid with the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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