Complaints are too easy: Agent

By Cassandra Masonnews@bayofplentytimes co nz

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People are taking advantage of a watchdog to lay unfounded complaints against reputable real estate agents, a Tauranga real estate boss says.

Nearly 3000 complaints have been lodged with the Real Estate Agents' Authority (REAA) since its launch in 2009, including 156 against agents in the Bay of Plenty region. Most of the region's complaints related to licensee conduct, 17 were for problems with marketing or advertising, and three cited a conflict of interest.

Twenty-three were ruled to be "unsatisfactory conduct", 66 warranted no further action and one agent was found guilty of misconduct. The rest were withdrawn, resolved or the REAA did not to inquire into them.

Ross Stanway, chief executive of Realty Services, which operates Bayleys and Eves, said it was "very easy" for people to complain to the REAA. But it was important to focus on the proportion that were upheld.

That only 24 cases were upheld out of 156 complaints implied consumers were taking advantage of their rights under the legislation, he said. However, there had "absolutely" been a change in standards within the industry.

"The whole rationale was to set new standards and make sure that they were maintained and enforced," he said. The authority gave consumers a degree of confidence and that was a "good thing".

Tauranga Harcourts managing director Simon Martin said the number of complaints was low compared to the number of transactions that would have taken place across the Bay of Plenty in this time frame.

He said there were situations where complaints were "frivolous and vexatious", but even when the REAA found there was no case to answer to, people were still getting a hearing.

"It shows that the industry has some pretty high standards with the new regulations. People are adhering to them and are doing their job properly which is encouraging.

LJ Hooker Tauranga principal Neville Falconer said it was good for the real estate industry to have an independent body to assess complaints.

Last year, Geoffrey Hill of Motel Sales in Tauranga was found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct for passing information on to buyers without clarification or verification. He was said not to have acted in the best interests of those he represented. Additional reporting by Sonya Bateson

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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