Implemented to provide transparent and fair processes for all parties involved in a complaint, The 2008 Act introduces a new complaints system, and procedures for handling complaints must be in place by all agents. Using those procedures may be the quickest way to resolve your concerns. If you are unable to sort things out this way you can complain to the Real Estate Agents Authority under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008. The Fair Trading Act 1986 and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, are other existing consumer protections, which also continue to be available to consumers.
How to make a complaint
When lodging your complaint you must identify the person you are complaining about. Outline your complaint and advise of any steps that you have already taken to try and resolve the complaint. Also try to provide as many relevant documents as possible. You must also provide a contact address. You can click here to download the Complaint Form [PDF] or you can request one by calling 0800 for REAA (0800 367 7322). You can deliver your complaint personally, fax, post or e-mail it.
Click here to go to the REAA website for information on How to Make a Complaint .
Who can make a complaint?
Any person is able to complain about the conduct of a licensee or former licensee under The 2008 Act. It is now possible to make a complaint about a wider range of matters under the 2008 Act than was possible under the 1976 Act.
What can I complain about?
Any person working in the real estate industry is required to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care as well as complying with the law. If someone does break the law, or falls short of the standard set out in the Code, this may constitute unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct depending on how far short of the standard the conduct is found to be. The terms ‘unsatisfactory conduct’ and ‘misconduct’ are defined below:
A licensee may be found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct if he or she carries out real estate agency work that:
- falls short of the standard that a reasonable member of the public is entitled to expect from a reasonably competent licensee; or
- contravenes a provision of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 Act or of any regulations or rules made under the Act; or
- is negligent or incompetent
- would reasonably be regarded by agents of good standing as being unacceptable.
A licensee may be found guilty of misconduct if their conduct:
- would reasonably be regarded by agents of good standing, or reasonable members of the public, as disgraceful; or
- constitutes seriously incompetent or seriously negligent real estate agency work; or
- consists of a wilful or reckless contravention of –
– the Real Estate Agents Act 2008; or
– other Acts that apply to the conduct of licensees; or
– regulations or rules made under the Act; or
- constitutes an offence for which the licensee has been convicted, being an offence that reflects adversely on the licensee’s fitness to be a licensee.
What happens when I make a complaint?
The REAA appoint as many Complaints Assessment Committees as needed to deal with complaints about licensees, and your complaint will be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee. These Committees will have three members with one being drawn from the Board and at least one member must be a lawyer with no less than seven years experience.
The person you complained about will be advised that a complaint has been received.
The Committee will consider your complaint as soon as possible. If the Board considers the person being complained about did nothing wrong, or the complaint is inconsequential or was not made in good faith, the Committee may decide to take no action. And if the Committee believes the complaint would be better handled by another agency it can refer the complaint to that agency. You, and the person being complained about, will be kept informed by the Committee, and they will let you know what it decides. If you are unhappy with the Committee’s decision to take no action you can appeal to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.
If the Committee decides to inquire further into your complaint it can require the person complained about to appear before it to make an explanation. As part of the complaints process the Committee can also require that person, or anyone else, to provide further information to enable it to carry out its inquiry.
Based on the information received during the enquiry, the Committee will usually reach a decision. If it thinks another method may be needed to resolve the dispute, the Committee may ask you, and the person you are complaining about, to make use of an alternative dispute resolution process. This could include mediation or negotiation. You will then need to report back to the Committee once a decision has been reached.
If the Committee finds that the conduct of the person you are complaining about falls short of what would usually be expected, is unacceptable, incompetent or negligent, or breaches the 2008 Act, regulations or rules (unsatisfactory conduct), it can ensure the following is carried out:
- censuring the person.
- requiring that person to apologise.
- requiring that person to undergo further training or education.
- ordering that person to reduce, cancel of refund fees or fix an error or omission.
- fining that person up to $10,000 if an individual or $20,000 if a company.
- ordering that person to pay costs to the complainant.
Your complaint can be referred to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal if the Committee considers that the conduct is disgraceful, seriously incompetent, seriously negligent, or is a willful or reckless breach of the 2008 Act, regulations or rules (misconduct). The matter may be sent to the Disciplinary Tribunal and you will be kept informed about the tribunal process. This can sometimes involve a public hearing.
What if I am not happy with the decision?
You may choose to appeal a decision of the Complaints Assessment Committee to the Disciplinary Tribunal and you can appeal a decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal to the High Court. There is a subsequent right of appeal to the Court of Appeal, but only on a point of law.
Can I withdraw my complaint?
You can withdraw your complaint at any stage. However, the Complaints Assessment Committee may still take action on its own account and investigate matters raised in your complaint further.
What is the role of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal is an independent body that is administered by the Ministry of Justice. The Disciplinary Tribunal is separate to the Real Estate Agents Authority. The Disciplinary Tribunal will consider any charges laid before it by a Complaints Assessment Committee. It will also hear appeals about decisions on complaints taken by a Committee and on application can review decisions of the Registrar.
Great penalties can be imposed by the Disciplinary Tribunal. These are greater than penalties that the Complaints Assessment Committees can impose, and include:
- canceling or suspending the person’s licence.
- ordering the licensee’s employment to be terminated and order that no agent employ or engage that person in connection with any real estate agency work.
- requiring the licensee to pay a fine of up to $15,000 for an individual, and up to $30,000 if the licensee is a company.
- ordering the licensee to pay compensation for actual loss of up to $100,000 to the complainant.
You will be told if the matter is being sent to the Disciplinary Tribunal and you will be kept informed about the tribunal process. This too, can encompass a public hearing.
Will I have to pay anything?
There is no charge for making a complaint to the Authority, and a Committee cannot make a costs order against a complainant. If, however, you wanted professional assistance with your complaint, such as advice from a lawyer or an accountant, you will have to pay for that.
Complaints about real estate transactions completed before 17 November 2009
If a complaint is made about an event that occurred before 17 November 2009 (when the new Act came into force), but was not dealt with before that date (under the 1976 Act), a Complaints Assessment Committee may consider the complaint and the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal may also hear a charge. In these circumstances, a complaint can only be made about something that could have been the subject of a complaint under the 1976 Act, and the remedies will be restricted to those that would have been available under the 1976 Act.
Where do I go for more information?
If you need more information or assistance with making a written complaint please call the REAA on 0800 for REAA (0800 367 7322).
The REAA contact details are:
- Click here to go to the REAA website for information on How to Make a Complaint .
- Click here to download the Complaint Form [PDF]