THE Estate Agents Council of (EAC) Zimbabwe has ordered the Net Seven Real Estate Bulawayo branch to stop trading until further notice pending finalisation of investigations after clients complained that it was fleecing them.
Estate agents manage people’s property on their behalf through a trust agreement in which they sell, lease and value real estate for a commission from owners.
Payments in respect of these assets are made into the agents’ trust account before being forwarded to the owners after necessary deductions.
In a public notice, EAC said the order to stop trading was in terms of the Estate Agents Act Chapter 27:17.
EAC registrar Bennias Gweme said the council had received complaints of suspected fraud and prejudiced, from Net Seven clients and the suspension was to ensure that any abuse of trust funds was thoroughly investigated and stopped.
“We don’t want other people prejudiced, so until we have finalised investigations, the order stands,” said Gweme.
He said estate agents were investigated if there were anomalies in their annual audited reports or in the instance of complaints by clients, as is the case with Net Seven.
An EAC official in Bulawayo, who requested anonymity, said problems associated with Net Seven stemmed from the fact that its Bulawayo office had no resident registered estate agent.
“As per council laws, all estate agents should have a registered agent where they operate and Net Seven’s agent is now registered for a Masvingo branch, which means they cannot operate a Bulawayo office under his name as well. This is to ensure we do not put the public at risk because there is less flight opportunity,” said the official.
Net Seven estate agent Munyaradzi Mazenge said both issues emanated from his relocation to Masvingo.
“The Bulawayo office has been operating under my name since 2001 and the problem now is that I am expanding while doing other projects which have necessitated my move to Masvingo,” he said.
“What is required is that we have to employ a registered agent for the Bulawayo office which we had done, but the person unfortunately pulled out at the last moment to pursue personal interests.”
He said the complaints registered at the council were basically a result of the requirement that as the agent, he had to approve and sign for all payments from the trust account, but he was no longer based in Bulawayo and payments had to wait.
“Naturally it then took a bit of time to make payments and I explained this to council, but people will always panic and I understand that council has to follow procedure and investigate,” he said.
“There is nothing huge or sinister here. At the moment, we have stopped operating the Bulawayo office until we hire a qualified registered agent.
“In the meantime, we have moved all agency work to Masvingo, but our sister companies are still operating from our Bulawayo offices.”