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 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 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 considers that the complaint is not made in good faith or is not a correct use of the REA complaints process, both you (the complainant) and the agent 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 (the 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.
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. You can ask the facilitator to refer the complaint to a CAC if you prefer.
Complaint decisions are published
Disciplinary Tribunal's decisions are also published on their website here.
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, 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 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, 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
- after 29 October 2019 — 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 agent can appeal the CAC's decision to the Disciplinary Tribunal. You can find information on 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 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.
Complaint decisions are published
Disciplinary Tribunal decisions are also published on their website here.