Pic Credit: Jan le Roux, chief executive Rebosa & Mamodupi Mohlala, CEO EAAB
The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) CEO Mamodupi Mohlala has been very quiet during the corona virus crisis so far despite desperate cries from estate agents that the regulator assists in some way to bring financial relief to the embattled real estate sector. Rebosa chief executive Jan le Roux asks why in this open letter sent out this week.
Dear Ms Mohlala
In the weeks prior to the lockdown you were quoted in the press repeatedly with one radio and TV interview followed by another. All this publicity focused on various initiatives seemingly in the pipeline.
Since the lockdown began there has been total silence, not a word from you or the EAAB.
The news cycle has been dominated by economic relief packages, funding and accommodations of all kinds by most everyone to assist South Africans in surviving these trying times. Business, government departments, civil society, banks – you name it, all came forward with something. Everyone rallied together to provide some form of support to soften the economic blow – some landlords reduced rent, employees and government officials accepted reduced salaries.
Ubuntu reigns everywhere bar the real estate industry that you regulate.
The EAAB and you are missing in action – correction, in April threatening letters of demand claiming arrears due went out to hundreds of agencies. No invoices were sent, no explanation given except to advise agents that their FFC’s were in danger if payments were not made. Somehow time was found to do this during the lockdown. How can this be a priority given the circumstances? We were advised that it is normal procedure after due date for audit reports but very few agencies have a 30 November year-end. Incidentally, many of these notices were issued in respect of dormant companies et cetera. Can we assume that the IT system is yet again to be blamed? Does it act on it’s own volition?
We were inundated with pleas for assistance. There were suggestions to address the challenges, demands to be assisted by using funds from the Fidelity Fund. We explained on your behalf that the latter is not legally possible. Did you not receive emails from stressed agents? Did it not occur to you that some communication to the industry would be helpful?
You were approached to come to the assistance of the industry with a number of very achievable and practical solutions (other entities came up with their own initiatives!):
- Audit reports – On 30 March we asked the EAAB to not immediately prosecute agencies should audit reports not be submitted timeously on 30 June, as many agents are likely to miss this deadline because of the lockdown. You responded and promised to approach the Board and revert. No response has been forthcoming as yet. Agents are concerned.
- Submission to government – On 1 April we asked that the EAAB support an industry approach to Minister Patel to allow estate agents operate under strict conditions. On 7 April you responded that you would approach the Board and revert. Not a word since.
- Waive CPD fees – The EAAB was asked to waive CPD fees for 2020, which it has authority to do. No response as yet.
- Payment holidays – The EAAB was asked for a payment holiday of penalties and such. No response as yet.
It appears that the Department of Human Settlements, “has received a number of queries related to the matter of commencement of operations of property practitioners more specifically estate agents as well as protocols related to property transactions for the buying and selling of property” and has “ requested that you please provide the Department with an overview of any interventions that may be required of the Department to provide assistance in the resolution or clarifications required on the matter of commencement of sector operations“.
Can it be possible that this information had to be requested from you when it could have been communicated on our behalf in March – should you have had the industry’s best interests at heart?
On issues unrelated to urgent lockdown relief but extremely important because of the risk it poses is our question on 1 April as to the continuation of professional indemnity insurance. The industry is under the impression that this is in existence because of a prior announcement by the EAAB with nothing to the contrary having been communicated since. You responded “I confirm we are working on this matter and will respond soon” on 7 April. Nothing since. Do you not know if you have cancelled this policy? Can you not determine in one month if you did? What would happen if a claim arose today, keeping in mind that the cover was for R1,000,000?
We advised you on numerous occasions that one entity after the other are offering their services to estate agents to obtain FCCs etc from the EAAB, ostensibly because of lack of service delivery – why else would they offer the service and be able to charge for it? We asked for your opinion on this matter as we believe it reflects badly on the EAAB – no response has been forthcoming.
The EAAB closed it’s offices on 13 March, 2 weeks prior to the lockdown. Eight weeks later you mention a further two weeks to arrange for the EAAB to become operational remotely? We don’t understand.
Ms Mohlala, we believe you are a resourceful, formidable woman with a masterful approach to public relations.
When you assumed office, you publicly shared how you were going to pursue a transformation agenda, adopt a stakeholder-centric approach and ensure a strong future for the EAAB including re-engineering the IT system and putting a number of procedures in place to better service stakeholders.
Where are you?
Not one communication of support or even sympathy for the industry?
Do you have an inkling what the industry is going through?
The industry is under threat.
Jan le Roux