Covid-19: Estate agency board seeks relief for frustrated agents
Estate agents have been prohibited from operating since the start of the lockdown on March 26, despite numerous representations to the government by the large estate agencies, which say that the buying and selling of houses not only provides the economy with much required liquidity - some R20 billion of property is transferred through the Deeds Office every month - but the sector is also a large employer and facing financial distress.
“Real estate is unquestionably a multiplier and enabling industry. In the 2008 financial crash in the US, it was real estate that led the economy out of the recession and back to prosperity. We believe this sector can assist South Africa in doing so again,” RE/MAX of Southern Africa chief executive Adrian Goslett said recently.
Real estate in isolation contributes about 5percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product, but there are many other organisations, industries and businesses that rely on the sector to trade, such as banks, bond originators and conveyancers.
EAAB chief executive Mamodupi Mohlala said they had received numerous requests from stakeholders seeking relief and said the “pleas have not fallen on deaf ears”.
She said the lockdown had threatened the viability of many estate agents, and, as the regulator of the sector, it was important to seek relief measures and provide assistance to mitigate some of the challenges facing the sector.
She said even though the National Disaster Act had been invoked, legislations governing accountability within public entities had not been suspended, and the EAAB was obliged to evaluate such requests.
Mohlala said no combination of other relief measures could supersede the request to Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for the change in lockdown level because, if granted, it would allow estate agents to operate fully under adjusted risk measures that would ensure the health and safety of its stakeholders and the public.
The EAAB was also awaiting a final decision from Sisulu on the deferment and waiver of Continuing Professional Development fees, a concession for late audit report submissions, and a payment holiday to February 28, 2021, for exam fees, fines and penalties.
The estate agent sector had requested that professional indemnity insurance be used to cover their operations during the lockdown, but the EAAB said the insurance was specifically set up to indemnify the public against the negligent practices of estate agents, and so this insurance could not be used for the operational costs of estate agents.