An overview of REA's complaints process
This page outlines the Real Estate Authority's (REA) complaint process and what you should expect when you make a complaint with us.
What happens once we receive your written complaint
Receiving a formal complaint
When REA receives a complaint, we first call the person who made the complaint (the complainant) to confirm we’ve understood what the complaint is about. We’ll also give you information about what behaviour you can reasonably expect from real estate agents.
The initial assessment
The Registrar then considers whether REA can look into the complaint. The Registrar will consider:
- whether there are any alleged breaches of the Real Estate Agents Act (2008)(external link) or Rules by the agent, and what the impact of any breach has been
- whether we've looked at the complaint before, and whether the complaint is a proper use of the REA complaints process
- whether the complaint would be better managed by another agency.
If the Registrar decides that REA is not able to look into your complaint, both you and the agent will receive a written decision from the Registrar explaining why. REA will refer the complaint to another agency if the Registrar considers that the complaint would be better managed by that agency. For example, a complaint made by a tenant about a property manager not lodging a bond might be referred to Tenancy Services.(external link)
Understanding both perspectives
When we receive a formal complaint, a facilitator from REA’s early resolution team will contact the agent and their manager. The facilitator will explain what the complaint is about and hear their side of the story. The facilitator is a neutral party in the complaints process.
Deciding how to manage the complaint
This stage of the complaint process is to consider whether the complaint is managed through REA’s early resolution process or referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC).
If the conduct alleged in the complaint appears to be a breach of the rules, the facilitator may ask you for information to help decide whether the complaint should be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC). You don’t have to provide this information if you don’t want to, but it can help answer key questions and may mean the complaint is referred to an early resolution process instead of the CAC process.
A facilitator may ask you and the agent if you’d like to engage in an early resolution process. The early resolution process is voluntary.
Complaint decisions are published
Disciplinary Tribunal's decisions are also published on the Disciplinary Tribunal website(external link).
What happens when your complaint is referred to the early resolution process.
The early resolution process
The aim of the early resolution process is to help you and the agent resolve the complaint. It’s an opportunity to learn about what happened from the agent's perspective and to help them understand your perspective and reflect on what might be done differently to prevent future complaints.
This process might involve:
- Speaking with you and the agent separately to understand what’s important to you both and then working with you both to resolve the issues.
- Facilitating a teleconference with you, the agent and their manager to discuss the issues and explore options to resolve the complaint.
- Arranging a confidential face-to-face mediation where an REA mediator facilitates a discussion between the parties involved in the complaint to resolve the complaint.
- Sending the agent a compliance advice letter, if you agree, if there are areas in their practice that they could reflect on and change.
If the complaint is resolved between the parties, the Registrar may then make a decision that the complaint does not need to be referred to a CAC. If the complaint is not resolved, you may ask for the complaint to be referred to a CAC. The Registrar will then consider if it is appropriate to refer the complaint to a CAC, or whether to take no further action on the complaint.
If the complaint is resolved through the early resolution process, it will not be published on the public register. An anonymised summary of the complaint may be published on our website to help consumers and other licensees understand the types of complaints REA manages and to provide general guidance for licensees who may face similar situations.
What happens when the complaint is referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) or to the Disciplinary Tribunal
What is a CAC?
A CAC is made up of three people appointed by REA: a lawyer, a real estate industry member and a person with experience in working with consumer interests.
If we refer a complaint to a CAC we will email the agent a copy of the complaint.
What does a CAC do?
When a CAC receives a complaint, it will decide whether to inquire into the complaint. If the CAC decides not to inquire, it will send you and the agent a written decision saying this and the reasons for that decision. This will be the end of the complaint process unless you or the agent appeals the decision to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
If the CAC decides to inquire into the complaint, an REA investigator will then be asked to investigate the complaint. They will contact the agent to request their formal response to the complaint. You will be given their response, so you have an opportunity to comment on it. It’s important you provide the investigator with all the relevant information.
The information the investigator gathers is given to the CAC in a written report. The CAC members read the information provided by all parties (the parties could include you, the agent, the agency or other people who have relevant information that the investigator has spoken with) and together, make a decision on the complaint.
Decisions the CAC can make
The CAC may decide:
- to take no further action on the complaint
- to make a finding of unsatisfactory conduct against the agent
- that the conduct is misconduct, and lay a misconduct charge with the Disciplinary Tribunal, for it to decide on the charge.
If the CAC makes a finding of unsatisfactory conduct
If the CAC makes a finding of unsatisfactory conduct against the agent, the CAC will ask you and the agent what an appropriate penalty might be. They will consider both parties’ views when deciding on the penalty. Some of the penalties available to the CAC include:
- censure or reprimand
- requiring the agent to apologise to the complainant
- requiring the agent to complete further training or education
- ordering fees to be reduced, cancelled or refunded
- ordering an error or omission to be rectified
- a fine of up to $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a company
- ordering costs be paid to the complainant
- referring the complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal to decide whether the agent should pay compensation to the complainant for financial loss they have suffered of up to $100,000.
You can appeal the CAC’s decision
You and the agent can appeal the CAC's decision to the Disciplinary Tribunal. More about how to file an appeal with the Disciplinary Tribunal (justice.govt.nz)(external link)
What happens if the complaint is referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal?
If the CAC believes the conduct reaches the level of misconduct, it may decide to lay a misconduct charge with the Disciplinary Tribunal.
If a charge is laid against the agent with the Disciplinary Tribunal, they will be notified in writing. Hearings are generally open to the public.
What is the Disciplinary Tribunal?
The Disciplinary Tribunal is appointed by the Ministry of Justice and is separate and independent from REA.
The Disciplinary Tribunal can make any of the decisions a CAC can make and it can find that either unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct has taken place. It can also decide to take no further action on a charge.
Penalties the Disciplinary Tribunal can order
If the Disciplinary Tribunal makes a finding of misconduct against an agent, they may face more serious penalties. These penalties can include:
- cancelling or suspending the agent’s licence
- imposing a fine of up to $15,000 for an individual or up to $30,000 for a company
- order the agent to pay compensation to the complainant of up to $100,000 for loss suffered by the agent's misconduct.
You can appeal Disciplinary Tribunal decisions to the High Court. There is also a further right of appeal to the Court of Appeal on questions of law.