Real Estate News

EAAB to close doors till spring?

EAAB

Picture: Mamodupi Mohlala, CEO EAAB, says a final decision will be made today if the regulator’s offices will be closed until 1 September.

Seven days. That is the amount of days the Sandton office of the Estate Agency Affairs Board were open for business in the three months since lockdown restrictions were relaxed. Now their doors are closed again and the board must decide on a proposal to reopen again only on 1 September. This contradicts an earlier notification that the office will only reopen on 1 September (*see below).

Many estate agents expressed outrage and incredulity about the weekend’s media statement by CEO Mamodupi Mohlala that all offices of the regulator will remain closed until spring (this statement has since been removed from the EAAB’s website). The announcement on 26 July followed confirmation that seven of their employees had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. To date 13 employees of the EAAB have tested positive for the virus. In response to Property Professional‘s query about the decision to close the office for more than a month, Mamodupi now says they envisioned reopening on 27 July but that the workers union raised concerns and objections about staff health and possible exposure of their families at home. According to her the union then proposed that the EAAB offices remain closed during August when the viral infection is expected to peak. A final decision about the reopening of the offices will be made today (30 July) during a board meeting.

“The EAAB’s priority during this unprecedented pandemic is twofold – ensuring the well-being of its staff and providing continued service delivery to its valued stakeholders. Since the onset of the lockdown, the EAAB provided essential service to its stakeholders by ensuring that key staff is equipped with laptops and date, enabling them to operate remotely,” explains Mamodupi.

The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) closed their offices a week before the official lockdown began on 27 March and only reopened on 1 July with a third of their staff – a full month after the real estate industry reopened for business. The reopening was short lived – on 3 July the offices were immediately evacuated after confirmation that an employee of another entity in the same building had been in contact with someone who had become infected. On 13 July the office reopened with 30% staff capacity only to evacuate and close again four days later when an EAAB employee tested positive for the virus. According to Mamodupi they were adhering to the safety protocols in the regulations of the Disaster Management Act.

“Lazy” “Stop their pay and let them claim UIF” “Beyond ridiculous! It should be no work no pay,” Were among the comments seen this week on social media platforms in reaction to the announcement. There were even calls for estate agents to unite in a boycott of the mandatory registration fees, but industry watch dog Rebosa’s chief executive Jan le Roux cautioned against such drastic action.

“We are doing our level best to communicate with the Minister and the EAAB but strongly advise against a boycott on the payment of CPD and FFC fees. The board has the power to not issue FFC’s in such an instance resulting in agents not earning a commission – a situation where one will be cutting one’s own nose to spite one’s own face. We do understand and share the frustration,” was Le Roux’s response.

The industry has been frustrated with the inefficiency and lack of service delivery of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) for years, but the lockdown has brought the lack of support to estate agents to the fore.

Also read: EAAB CEO says industry must wait a little longer …

Despite the assurance from CEO Mamodupi that their staff continued to work remotely during the lockdown to address queries, registrations and backlog of FFCs, there have been many complaints about emailed queries that go unanswered or remain unresolved. According to Mamodupi all the email addresses have been tested and are functional. There is a response time of 48 hours.

During this time it has also come to light that the EAAB had not renewed the industry’s professional indemnity cover in June last year yet failed to inform the industry of this thereby leaving thousands of estate agents vulnerable to legal claims. In response Mamodupi acknowledged that the cover wasn’t renewed last year and said a statement regarding the fact will be issued – that hasn’t happened to date.

More detail on Covid-19 relief measures for real estate

DHS Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced on 21 July that estate agencies would not face penalties for late audit reports until 31 October and that all fees for mandatory training are waived for 2020. She said the EAAB would explain the details before 31 July.

In response Mamodupi says they are very pleased with the relief measures that the Minister approved. “We believe that these measures will be of great assistance to the industry as we begin to navigate a new challenging path amid the global pandemic and a trying economic period,” says Mamodupi.

EAAB CEO Mamodupi gave the following explanation about the relief measures as well as the Minister’s announcements about the finalisation of the regulations this year to give effect to the new Property Practitioners Act:

Audit report extension

The waiver of penalties for late submission by the estate agencies until 31 October 2020 is confirmed.

No refund for CPD fees

The fees payable for mandatory training (read CPD) will be waived for the current year. There will be no refund for those who already paid their CPD fees, instead their accounts will be credited for the next financial year and they will not be expected to pay again next year.

The EAAB will soon be providing CPD on an electronic platform. An announcement on the details thereof will be communicated to the industry in due course.

Exams

A service provider has been identified to administer the roll-out of the online exam platform.

Finalisation of PPA regulations

The regulator is part of the drafting and consulting team that is led by the Department of Human Settlements. All industry groupings and stakeholders including Rebosa, the National Property Practitioners Council (NPPC) and NPF have also participated in the process. Mamodupi says they welcome the finalisation of the regulations and look forward to the promulgation of the effective date of the Property Practitioners Act. “We are pleased to confirm that the regulations will be fully aligned with the provisions of the Act,” she adds.

PDI exemptions

According to Mamodupi the EAAB is currently working on several transformation programmes. Last week it was announced that the implementation date for the Previously Disadvantaged Individuals resolution (PDI Resolution) has been brought forward to 27 July 2020. The PDI resolution, which was already approved in January 2019, was initially scheduled to commence on 1 April 2020, but was then postponed to 31 August due to the announcement of the national lockdown. Mamodupi said in a statement about the new date it was moved forward due to the call for help from the industry due to the financial struggles experienced as a result of the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the corona virus. She added that the EAAB will communicate further announcements after a board meeting scheduled for 30 July 2020.

Also read: Do black agents matter?

Rebosa response

In response to the Covid Relief Measures announced, Le Roux expressed appreciation for the waiving of late audit report penalty. However, he added with regard to the CPD payments that due to the urgency of the relief requested it would have been better if the EAAB refunded payments or at worst credited the accounts of the agents that had paid already to enable them to use the funds for this year’s renewal applications. “Being relieved of paying for CPD next year is not helping now and this prejudices those who had already paid,“ he says.

*EAAB notification published on 26 July 2020

Media Release

26 July 2020

TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF THE EAAB OFFICES DUE TO COVID-19 UNTIL 01 SEPTEMBER 2020

On 17 July 2020 employees were notified that one of our employees tested positive for the Coronavirus. The tests results were shared with the Employer on the same day.  A decision was then taken that employees evacuate the building as a precautionary measure and to allow for health and safety protocols to be adhered to.

The employer then requested all employees to self-isolate whilst arrangements were made for employees who had been in the building since the re-opening of the offices to get tested at Morningside Lancet Laboratory.  Since 17 July 2020, the EAAB has since facilitated the testing of employees. Of those who went to be tested, 7 employees tested positive for Covid-19.

Initially it was planned for the office to re-open on 27 July 2020, but due to the rapid increase of infections in the country particularly in Gauteng and also the number of confirmed positive cases at the EAAB, Management has reconsidered the 27 July 2020 as the re-opening date. We are undertaking to act responsibly and do our part in preventing further spread of the virus.

A decision has been taken that the EAAB offices close during the cold days in winter when the virus is at its peak, and for employees to work from home.  It is hoped that this will assist in minimizing the spread of the Coronavirus.  Therefore the EAAB Offices will re-open on 01 September 2020.

The EAAB will continue to closely monitor all updates and advice from the relevant authorities, including the Department of Health and the Department of Employment and Labour. We would like to ensure employees that we will continue to take all necessary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and stakeholders.
Key to the workplace readiness is the implementation of Health and Safety controls. Covid-19 regulations dictate that the most effective way to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus is to reduce density, practise good hygiene and social distancing.

Stakeholders are encouraged to continue using electronic means to contact the EAAB (details and email addresses on www.eaab.org.za where possible).

For further Covid-19 related enquires contact: Covid-19 Compliance Officer Mr. Oscar Mangole at oscar.mangole@eaab.org.za.

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