Dear Fellow Estate Agent
We Feel Your Pain
The Rebosa directors have all been registered estate agents and involved in the property industry in one capacity or another for many, many years. We have owned and managed both smaller and bigger enterprises and we understand the challenges that the lockdown presents to each and every one in the industry.
We know that other industries are suffering too but we believe that our industry, due to existing business practices is prejudiced more than others. Pipeline transactions are stuck in the Deeds Office, placing our already precarious cash flows under even more pressure.
Understandably, everyone is investigating all possible avenues that may exist to alleviate the economic burden. The financial and other challenges we are currently faced with are almost insurmountable. We can assure you that we have investigated every possibility.
Rebosa is a founding member of the National Property Practitioners Council (“NPPC”) which was finally constituted on the 15th of April 2020. In this entity virtually all representative bodies in the industry are united to create one forum and one voice for the industry – essential for the challenges we face. See press release below.
Over the past few weeks numerous requests were directed to both the Presidency and Minister Patel to allow the Deeds Office and City Councils to operate with skeleton staff.
We must however be mindful of the fact that, important as this is to the industry, it will require the sacrifice of officials to risk their health and safety – hence we appreciate that the matter of determining the balance between “lives” and “livelihoods” is complicated.
We have received many requests to approach the EAAB for financial assistance for estate agents. Frequently the Fidelity Fund was raised as a possible source of funds. We obtained legal advice on this and unfortunately, the matter is complicated. The existing Act is very clear on what payments can be made from the Fund and it will require an amendment to the Act before such funds would be accessible. This of course will be a lengthy, complex process which may never come to fruition.
Based on the outcome of the legal opinion it was resolved to rather approach the EAAB on matters they have the power to address immediately – see letter below.
The EAAB was requested to:
• Waive 2020 CPD fees.
• Allow for a payment holiday for all exam fees, arrears, fines/penalties till 28 February 2021.
• Not impose sanctions or penalties for late submission of audit reports before 31 December 2020.
We are still waiting for their response but a refusal will reflect badly on our regulator at a time when government, civil society and business are all working together and contributing in some way to cushion the impact of Covid-19 on our economy.
We are acutely aware of the fact that there are still some of our colleagues who have not been issued with their FFC’s for this year; that the MyEAAB and MyCPD online portals are experiencing technical difficulties again and that the CPD training is not yet available. Our EAAB liaison Fiona Chaitowitz is still working on all member queries and we are getting some responses from EAAB officials working from home. We will continue to assist during this difficult situation which has obviously been exacerbated by the lockdown.
In our last report we included a summary of stimulus and debt relief packages for those affected by Covid-19 which was compiled by Schindlers Attorneys. Unfortunately agents, not having contributed to UIF cannot claim from the Covid-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Relief Scheme (C19 TERS). This might be a wake-up call for industry to investigate insurance schemes which can assist agents in future when similar circumstances may occur.
Jan le Roux
The Property Practitioners Act will probably be promulgated in the near future and the Department is working on the regulations required to make this happen. The NPPC have worked solidly to comment on the draft regulations to ensure that many of the challenges we now face are addressed. We hope our comments will be noted/accommodated. This does not offer immediate relief but it does give hope for some smooth sailing in the future.
Risk-adjusted Strategy for Economic Activity
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday the lockdown will be gradually lifted to revive the economy.
As part of this approach, there will be five alert levels and the national coronavirus alert level will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 with effect from Friday the 1st of May 2020.
To ensure that the response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible, there will be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country.
The Ministers of COGTA and DTI will provide a detailed briefing on the classification of industries as part of the risk adjusted strategy to reopen the economy on Saturday 25 April 2020 at 10h00. Until this briefing takes place, the industry has no clear directive from government as to when real estate activities can commence.
As we understand it at present, the real estate industry will be permitted to commence work as we fall under professional services in Level 4. However the deeds office and government services i.e. councils will only be permitted to open and operate when the country moves to Level 3.
It must be noted that changes to these classifications could be announced in the week ahead.
Industry bodies have been given an opportunity to consider these details and make submissions before the new regulations are gazetted. We will be lodging our submissions to Minister Patel and will address the challenges regarding the Deeds Office again.
Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and workplace plans will be put in place to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.
All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third.
Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible.
Please find below documents relating to the risk adjusted strategy adopted by national government.
All guidelines and regulations can be found on https://www.gov.za/coronavirus/guidelines
How to Add Insult to Injury
Having requested the EAAB to take steps to lessen the pressure on the industry during the lockdown we were surprised to note that, starting yesterday, letters of demand were actually sent to a number of estate agencies. No information is provided as to what the payment demands are for. We have since established that the amounts are for interest on trust accounts. As is often the case, company details are incorrect and agents are receiving emails for companies that no longer exist. No doubt the IT system will be blamed. We are taking this matter up with the EAAB as well.
Rebosa Workplace Health and Safety Guidelines
In response to health and safety protocols in the workplace during Covid-19, we are currently working on a standard industry set of guidelines which will soon be available for download on our website.
Please find below, a summary of Employer’s obligations for returning to work after Covid-19 supplied by attorney firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
Notice Regarding the Delay in Releasing Examination Results For the PDE Written On 5 March 2020
The EAAB Education and Training Department wishes to inform all examination candidates who wrote the examination on 05 March 2020 of the delay in releasing the examination results. The delay is as a result of delayed marking process resulting from the lockdown declared by the President on 26 March 2020, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The EAAB will endeavour to complete the marking process and communicate the results as soon as it is possible.
Postponement in the Conducting Of the Professional Designation Examination Scheduled For 21 May 2020
The EAAB Education and Training Department wishes to inform all stakeholders and potential Professional Designation Examination candidates who wish to enrol, or have already expressed interest to enrol and to write the examination scheduled for 21 May 2020, that these scheduled examinations have, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown declared by the President on 26 March 2020, been postponed in all venues until further notice.
This postponement notice applies to the examination scheduled for 21 May 2020 only and not to all planned examinations as per the schedule communicated on our website www.eaab.org.za (stakeholders are advised to check for the schedule under Education as well as on the home page).
The Stakeholders wishing to purchase the study material are still advised to continue to send their study material orders to email@example.com together with the payment proof thereof. Enquiries regarding study material must also be channelled through to the same email address.