As a result of the Estate Agency Affairs Board’s campaign to raise their professional qualifications, estate agents are assuming a more crucial role in any property deal, and are expected to be more protective of their clients than ever before.
“The dangers attached to certain agreements are now better understood,” says Errol King, the Rawson Property Group’s franchisee for Muizenberg. “These were at one stage seen largely as the attorney’s responsibility. However today’s agents realise that they cannot hide behind a legal professional.”
In a case with which he has recently been involved, said King, the seller revealed that he had discovered, after taking over the property, that the carport attached to the home had been built by a previous owner without obtaining permission from the City Council. The new buyer had, however, already taken possession of the home.
Make matters right
King informed the new buyer of the problem and assured him and his conveyancer that he would put matters right. He then met with the building inspector who told him that provided that the electrical and plumbing compliance certificates were in order he would help to rectify the carport situation.
King then arranged for a complete set of carport plans to be drawn up, submitted these to the City Council on the seller’s behalf and negotiated with the seller (who had paid for the plans) and the buyer to allow transfer to proceed. This was eventually achieved.
“All involved,” said King, “were delighted, especially because, as is so often the case in property transactions, other sales depended on this one going through – the seller had signed to buy a new home and the buyer had sold his existing home.”
It might, said King, have been well within the estate agent’s rights to walk away and to leave the seller to sort out his problems. However, he said, that is not the way estate agents today are taught to behave, especially if they wish to build up a trusting client base.
Obey the CPA!
“Assuming extra responsibilities and acting as both a personal and financial consultant to the seller is more or less obligatory today and these responsibilities are, I believe, emphasised by the new Consumer Protection Act.”
As he reads the act, said King, the estate agent must personally check on every contract that the existing buildings comply with the approved plans.
One clause in particular in most typical Deeds of Sale, said King, needs to be carefully explained to sellers and buyers – this is the clause that buyers take on the full responsibility for the property from the day that the transfer is registered.
“It is,” said King, “vital to point out to the buyer that from transfer day, their homes must be insured in their own names. Furthermore, any rates, taxes and levies paid by the seller on the property after the transfer date (to the end of the month in which the transfer takes place) must be passed on to the new owner for refunding. In addition, any rent collected on the property post-transfer now has to be paid to the new owner.”
The amounts involved here, said King, are often far from negligible and the agent needs to tabulate these and to explain in advance to both parties the legal situation of the home from the moment the transfer goes through.