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A former Napier woman who spent four years dealing with the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) says the body protects members and complaint procedures are a joke.

The justice and electoral select committee today heard submissions from Reinz, real estate agents, and others on the Real Estates Agents Bill.
Deb Leask told MPs of her experience, which started in September 2003 when she sought to sell her Westshore Napier property for about $400,000.

She was made an offer of $230,000 by her listing agent but was not told that it was another salesman from the same office, Graeme Sawyer, who wanted to buy it.

Ms Leask rejected the offer - she sold the property for $369,000 in March 2004 but was outraged by the offer and formally complained to Reinz in December 2004.

Reinz investigated but did not forward the case to the Licensing Board which can cancel licences.

Instead, its regional disciplinary subcommittee heard the case in 2006 and Bayleys estate agency was reprimanded and fined $750 - the maximum fine that body can award.

Ms Leask thought his behaviour warranted more and would not let the matter rest. "My dealings with Reinz lasted four years. I had to drive it all the way and ask what was happening by phone calls and emails. A huge amount of my time was wasted due to the incompetence and lack of interest from Reinz," Ms Leask told MPs by phone from Australia, where she now lives.

"My experience shows Reinz to be disinterested in complaints, unprofessional, unable to investigate, incompetent, protective of their own members and not capable of dealing with complaints in a timely manner. This was right from local representatives through to the very top." She said an independent body was needed.

"I have been victimised, bullied and vilified by a real estate agent involved who was trying to obtain support from other local real estate agents. Self protection is obviously more critical than truth."

Eventually Reinz contacted Crown Law to see if the case was worth taking to the Licensing Board - the advice was that it was.

However the board said Reinz did not meet its threshold required before stripping someone of their licence. "The case for the prosecution had more holes than a used dartboard," Ms Leask said.

The board's November 2007 decision said there was no evidence Mr Sawyer had done anything wrong. It found that he withdrew his offer on discovering Ms Leask wanted $400,000.

The bill was prompted by criticism of Reinz's in-house complaints process over weak penalties, unnecessary delays and a reluctance to refer complaints to its more powerful licensing board.

Under the bill, Reinz will be stripped of its regulatory powers and a new independent Real Estate Agents Authority established to oversee licensing, complaints and disciplinary action for the nation's 18,000 agents.

The new disciplinary tribunal proposed in the bill will have the power to fine individuals up to $15,000 and companies up to $30,000 for rule breaches.

- NZPA