New Zealand Complaints
The 2008 Act introduces a new complaints system for New Zealand, which will provide transparent and fair processes for all parties involved in a complaint. All agents must have procedures for handling complaints. 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 Authority under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008. Other existing consumer protections, such as those provided by the Fair Trading Act 1986 and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993, also continue to be available to consumers.
How to make a complaint
In your complaint, you must identify the person you are complaining about, outline your complaint, advise of any steps that you have already taken to try and resolve the complaint, and provide any relevant documents. 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 REA (0800 367 7322). You can deliver your complaint personally, fax, post or e-mail it.
Click here to go to the REA website for information on How to Make a Complaint.
Who can make a complaint?
The 2008 Act allows any person to complain about the conduct of a licensee or former licensee. 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?
As well as complying with the law, any person working in the real estate industry is required to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct and Client Care. 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 incompetent or negligent; or
- 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?
It will be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee. The REA appoint as many Complaints Assessment Committees as needed to deal with complaints about licensees. These Committees will have three members. One will be 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. The Committee may decide to take no action if it considers the person complained about did nothing wrong, or the complaint is inconsequential or was not made in good faith. If the Committee thinks the complaint would be better handled by another agency it can refer the complaint to that agency. The Committee will let you, and the person complained about, 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. If necessary the Committee can also require that person or anyone else to provide further information to enable it to carry out its inquiry.
The Committee will usually just consider the information that it has received and make a decision based on that. One outcome may be that the Committee asks you and the person you are complaining about to make use of an alternative dispute resolution process (for example, mediation or negotiation) and report back to the Committee if it thinks this method is likely to resolve the dispute.
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 make one or more of a number of orders including:
- censuring the person.
- requiring that person to apologise.
- requiring that person to undergo further training or education.
- ordering that person to reduce, cancel or 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.
If the Committee considers that the conduct is disgraceful, seriously incompetent or seriously negligent, or is a willful or reckless breach of the 2008 Act, regulations or rules (misconduct), it can refer your complaint to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. You will be told if the matter is being sent to the Disciplinary Tribunal and you will be kept informed about the tribunal process, which can involve a public hearing.
What if I am not happy with the decision?
You can appeal a decision of a 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 can still take action on its own account on matters raised in your complaint if it considers it raises matters that should be investigated 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 from the Real Estate 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.
The Disciplinary Tribunal can impose great penalties than the Complaints Assessment Committees. These penalties include:
- cancelling 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, which can involve 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. However, if you want 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 REA on 0800 for REA (0800 367 7322).
The REA contact details are:
Real Estate Authority
PO Box 25371, Wellington 6146
Level 2, 10 Brandon Street, Wellington
Phone: 0800 for REA (0800 367 7322)
Fax: 04 815 8468