Our what? Exactly! Who even understands big words like that? Not many, but it is my job to understand, and explain it to you so that you know what is expected of someone who presents themselves to you as an Estate Agent.
Estate Agents in Zimbabwe are controlled by a very strict set of conduct rules that most of the public are completely unaware of.
When one becomes registered as an Estate Agent in Zimbabwe, they have had to have had at least 3 years practical experience in the industry and pass a rigorous set of exams. The most important of which is Estate Agency Practice. This covers all the legal aspects of property sales and rentals, as well as an Estate Agent’s Duty to the Public.
I have listed below, in English, not legalese, what you not only can expect, but must demand from your Estate Agent:
1. An agent must put the interests of his client above his own at all times, and must treat the business dealings of his clients as well as he would treat his own, if not better. This means that you can and should demand confidentiality at all times from your agent. He should never try to purchase or lease your property himself, without having first made it very clear to you of his personal interest.
Any Estate Agent is obliged to offer you advice and professional knowledge about the industry, regardless of whether you employ his services. (Much like a doctor is obliged to save lives even if they are not his patients!)
2. Agents should not defame other agents, or treat them in a manner that is inconsistent with fairness, courtesy and professionalism.
3. Agents should not tout, i.e. should not try to canvass for business by door to door calling. They should not approach you if your house is on the market and ask to sell it. So many people don’t realize this and an agent will call them and say, “I have a buyer for your house, please can I bring them around?” If the property is with another agent then you should tell the caller, that they must go through your appointed agent. Sellers can get themselves into all sorts of trouble when allowing a non mandated agent to sell their property as they will be liable for the mandated agent’s commission, even if that agent did not sell the property.
4. Agents should not pose as buyers to illicit information from sellers or other agents.
5. Money held in an agent’s trust account does not belong to the agent, and under NO circumstances is that agent allowed to use the money for the running of his business or personal expenses, (not even bank charges!) The agent should not move any money in the trust account out of the account without the written permission of the owner of that money. The number of cases that exist of agents “borrowing” money from the trust account and never repaying it, is quite frightening.
The deposit paid for a rental property belongs to the tenant until the end of the lease, and at such time the money will either be returned to the tenant or used to repair the property and pay outstanding bills.
At any stage that you have money in an Estate Agent’s trust account, you can and probably should ask to see a statement. All rental properties should have a monthly statement of their account forwarded to the owner and tenant, if the tenant requests it.
If at any stage, you feel an agent is not fulfilling these obligations, you can report them to the Estate Agents Council, and the matter will be taken up by them. If you have been unfortunate enough to lose money from an Estate Agent’s Trust Account, the Estate Agents Council has a Compensation Fund, which all agents have to pay money to each year, so that the public can be reimbursed for their losses. Bet you didn’t know that…I am letting out all the secrets today, aren’t I?
But remember, you have the right to expect the best from the person you are entrusting with your most valuable possessions, so don’t settle for less…
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