Growing discontent with real estate body

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Two Nelson property owners whose complaints have been dealt with by the Real Estate Institute this year are reiterating widespread concerns about its drawn-out processes and lack of accountability.

Godfrey Watson, a former police detective inspector, complained that a Nelson agent caused him to miss out on buying a property and failed to secure the highest price for the vendor.

He said a conclusion, different to what he had anticipated, was reached early last month, which lead to an agreement with the real estate firm.

Although he didn't wish to reveal details, Mr Watson said the agreement didn't involve an apology "as such" and he wasn't very confident that those concerned had learned anything from it.

"You get to a situation where you've got to compromise and move on. It's really frustrating. For us it was almost 18 months from whoa to go."

A parliamentary select committee is considering proposed law changes that would see the institute stripped of its power to self-regulate, and an independent authority established to oversee licensing and complaints for the nation's 18,000 agents.


Mr Watson said it was "amazing" how many other people told him about similar problems after he went public with his story last November.

He believes the outcomes of cases such as his should be publicly accessible to others dealing with real estate agents.

The Real Estate Institute is not required to make that information available to consumers.

Since October, the Nelson Mail has been requesting statistics from the institute about complaints in the Nelson region and the outcome of those complaints. Inquiries have been directed to various staff within the organisation until landing with national president Murray Cleland last week.

On Monday, Mr Cleland divulged that eight of the 171 complaints received by the institute last year came from the Nelson Marlborough district. No other information was forthcoming.

Mr Cleland said the institute did not retain statistics specific to the region and staff had to review files from half the South Island to provide the information.

"Like most investigative bodies, REINZ has legal duties and obligations imposed on it regarding the use of information acquired over the course of an investigation," he said.

"To that end we have a strict disclosure policy that balances a complainant's right to privacy and what information we can release to the public."

A Nelson woman, who declined to be named, said this week that she had waited more than a year to have her complaint come before a hearing panel, only to have it conclude there was no case for the agent concerned to answer. She, too, felt let down by the process.

Two other complaints, lodged last year following the multimillion-dollar sale of a Princes Drive property belonging to the late Richard Potton, have not yet been dealt with by the institute. It previously reported it had referred the case to the Crown Law Office.

Mr Cleland has now confirmed that Crown Law Office solicitors were employed to provide legal advice to the institute and it was in that capacity, and not as crown solicitors, that they were reviewing the case.