The complaints process for licensees
This page outlines REA's complaint process.
What happens when we receive a complaint about you
Resolving concerns before they become complaints
If we receive a call from a person who is concerned about your conduct, we’ll encourage the caller to contact you or your manager to discuss their concerns.
If appropriate, we may call you or your manager directly with information about the caller’s concerns to allow you to resolve them.
Receiving a formal complaint
If someone isn’t able to resolve their concerns with you, they may choose to make a formal written complaint to REA.
When REA receives a complaint, we call the person who made the complaint (the complainant) to confirm we’ve understood what the complaint is about. We’ll also give them information about what behaviour they can reasonably expect from licensees.
The initial complaint assessment
The complaint is then considered by the Registrar who will consider:
- whether there are any alleged breaches of the Real Estate Agents Act (2008) or Rules, and what, if any, impact of those breaches there has been
- whether we've looked at the complaint before, and whether the complaint is a proper use of the REA complaint process
- whether the complaint would be better managed by another agency.
If the Registrar considers the complaint is not made in good faith, is not a proper use of the REA complaints process, or is not a breach of the Act or rules, both you and the complainant will receive a written decision from the Registrar saying REA will not continue with the complaint.
This decision cannot be appealed to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (Disciplinary Tribunal).
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.
Hearing your perspective
If we receive a formal complaint, a facilitator from REA’s early resolution team will contact you and your manager. The facilitator will explain what the complaint is about and hear your side of the story. The facilitator is a neutral party in the complaint 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 complainant if you’d like to engage in an early resolution process. The early resolution process is voluntary. You can ask the facilitator to refer the complaint to a CAC if you prefer.
Complaint decisions are published
Disciplinary Tribunal decisions are also published on the Disciplinary Tribunal website here.
What happens when the 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 complainant resolve the complaint. It’s an opportunity to learn about what happened from the complainant’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 complainant separately to understand what’s important to you both and then working with you both to resolve the issues.
- Facilitating a teleconference with you, your manager and the complainant 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 you a compliance advice letter, if the complainant agrees, and if there are areas in your practice that you 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, the complaint will be referred to a CAC.
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 about your conduct to a CAC we will email you a copy of the complaint. You may want to speak to your manager or a lawyer and have them involved in the process, but you don’t have to.
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 complainant a written decision saying this and the reasons for that decision. This will be the end of the complaint process unless you or the complainant 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 you to request your formal response to the complaint. Your response will be given to the complainant, so the complainant has an opportunity to comment on your response. It’s important to carefully consider the complaint, how you respond to the complaint and 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, your agency, the complainant 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 you
- 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 you, the CAC will ask you and the complainant 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 you to apologise to the complainant
- requiring you 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 you 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 complainant can appeal the CAC's decision to the Disciplinary Tribunal. You can find information about how to file an appeal on the Disciplinary Tribunal’s website here.
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 you with the Disciplinary Tribunal, you will be notified in writing. You have the right to legal representation and to appear before the Disciplinary Tribunal to be heard. Hearings are generally open to the public.
Appointment and powers of 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.
The Disciplinary Tribunal can also impose more serious penalties or orders
If the Disciplinary Tribunal finds you guilty of misconduct, you are likely to face more serious penalties. These include:
- having your licence cancelled or suspended
- ordering that your employment be terminated and that no agent employ or engage you in real estate agency work
- imposing a fine of up to $15,000 for an individual or up to $30,000 for a company
- ordering you to pay compensation to the complainant of up to $100,000 for loss suffered by the licensee’s misconduct.
You and the complainant 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. The court of appeal is the final appeal stage.
Complaint decisions are published
Disciplinary Tribunal decisions are also published on the Tribunal website here.