Home truths: Agents are fighting back
Real estate agents are fighting back over last week's Sunday Star-Times report that they are trying to avoid or blunt new consumer protection laws now before Parliament.
REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the problem with the new law was that it made it an offence for an agent to make a representation based on information received in good faith from a vendor, but which proved untrue.
She said there was already case law that had found real estate agents responsible if the accuracy of information supplied could be checked on public records. However, the new law could apply to situations where the vendor could not check the accuracy.
"It could open the floodgates to a range of complaints when there hasn't actually been any consumer harm," she said, adding that Business NZ and the NZ Law Society had also submitted suggested changes and even deletion of the section.
However, John Gray of the Homeowners & Buyers Association said he had seen many agents overstating features of houses.
"Whether they do it with intent or out of naivity is hard to determine," he said. Gray said they were a minority, but the entire profession got tarred.
Buyers needed to understand the agent worked for the vendor and was, fundamentally, a salesperson.
Gray said the regulation of agents required higher standards than for others involved in the home sales process, such as conveyancers. The new Real Estates Agents Authority was welcome and would lift standards again.
"If they are already well under the microscope, why should they be the slightest bit concerned about consumer law reform?" he said.
Gray said an attitude of "no harm, no fault" only encouraged bad behaviour.
O'Sullivan said agents were already required to tell the truth and, just as importantly, not to withhold relevant information.
The institute's code of conduct already required agents to inquire further if they suspected hidden defects and to cease acting for a vendor who asked them to withhold information.
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