The complaints process
This page outlines the REA's complaints process.
If we receive a complaint about your conduct
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 first to discuss their concerns.
If appropriate, we might call you or your manager directly with information about the caller’s concerns to give you the opportunity to resolve them.
Receiving a formal complaint
If someone isn’t able to resolve their concerns with you, they might choose to make a formal written complaint to REA.
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 them information about what behaviour they can reasonably expect from licensees.
The initial complaint assessment
The complaint is then considered by the Registrar. We will consider:
- whether there are any alleged breaches of the Real Estate Agents Act (2008) or Rules, and what the impact of any breach has been
- whether we've looked at the complaint before, and whether the complaint is a correct use of the REA complaint process
- whether the complaint would be better managed by another organisation.
If the Registrar considers that the complaint falls into any of those categories, both you and the complainant will receive a written decision saying REA will not continue with the complaint. This decision cannot be appealed to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (the 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 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 perspective about what happened. The facilitator is a neutral party in the complaint process.
If the conduct alleged in the complaint sounds like a serious breach of the rules, the facilitator might ask you for some 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.
If the conduct alleged in the complaint sounds like a less-serious breach of the rules, the facilitator will ask you and the complainant if you’d like to engage in an early resolution process. The early resolution process is voluntary, and you can ask the facilitator to refer the complaint to a CAC instead.
If the complaint is referred to an early resolution process
The aim of the early resolution process is to help you and the complainant to resolve the complaint. It’s an opportunity to learn about what happened from the complainant’s perspective 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 work with you both to resolve the issues
- sending you a compliance advice letter, if the complainant agrees, if there are areas of your practice that you could reflect on and change
- facilitating a teleconference with you, your manager and the complainant to discuss the issues and explore options for resolving the complaint
- arranging a confidential face-to-face mediation where an REA mediator facilitates a discussion between the parties involved in the complaint, with the purpose of trying to resolve the complaint.
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 recorded 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 deals with.
If the complaint is referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee
If we refer a complaint about your conduct to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) we will email you a copy of the complaint. You may want to speak to a lawyer and have them involved in the process, but you don’t have to.
Complaints Assessment Committees (CACs)
CACs are made up of three people, including a lawyer and two other members with a background in the real estate industry or consumer affairs.
When the 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 explaining why. This will be the end of the complaint process unless either party appeals the decision to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal).
If the CAC decides to inquire into the complaint, an REA investigator will conduct an investigation. They will contact you to request your formal response to the complaint and will give your response to the complainant to comment on. It’s important to take this seriously 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 and decide the complaint.
The CAC makes a decision
The CAC can:
- decide to take no further action on the complaint
- make a finding of unsatisfactory conduct against you
- decide that misconduct may have taken place, and refer the complaint to the Tribunal to consider.
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. The penalties available to the CAC are:
- censure or reprimand
- requiring that the licensee apologise to the complainant
- requiring 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 paid to the complainant.
You can appeal the CAC decision
You or the complainant can appeal the CAC decision to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal. You can find information on how to file an appeal on the Tribunal’s website here.
If the complaint is referred to the Tribunal
If the CAC believes the behaviour reaches the level of misconduct, it may decide to lay misconduct charges with the Tribunal.
If charges are laid against you with the Tribunal, you will be notified in writing. You will have the right to legal representation and to appear before the Tribunal and be heard. Hearings are generally open to the public.
The Tribunal is appointed by the Ministry of Justice and is separate and independent from REA.
Powers of the Tribunal
The Tribunal can make any of the orders a CAC can make and find that either unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct has taken place. It can also decide to take no further action on a charge.
The Tribunal can also impose more serious penalties
If the Tribunal makes a finding of misconduct against you, you may face more serious penalties. These include:
- ordering that a person’s licence be cancelled or suspended
- ordering that their employment be terminated and that no agent employ or engage them in real estate agency work
- imposing a fine of up to $15,000 for an individual or up to $30,000 for a company
- order the licensee to pay compensation to the complainant of up to $100,000 for loss suffered by the licensee’s misconduct.
You can appeal Tribunal decisions to the High Court. There is also a further right of appeal to the Court of Appeal on questions of law.