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Top estate agencies to be probed for law-firm ‘marketing’

Nashira Davids The Times
Top estate agencies to be probed for law-firm ‘marketing’

Two top estate agencies are under investigation over suspect deals with a major law firm.

Pam Golding Properties and Seeff Residential Properties could end up losing their licences if found guilty of contravening the Estate Agency Affairs Board’s code of conduct.

The Sunday Times has established that the two property giants were charged by the board after they earned over R500 000 for referring clients to Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes for conveyancing work.

The board confirmed that Pam Golding and Seeff will appear before an “internal inquiry” within weeks.

“This is a very serious matter as it involves a lot of money. There have been cases like this in the past but never this big,” said Lindiwe Bulo, executive manager for the board’s compliance department.

“Our regulations state that: ‘No estate agent shall without good and sufficient cause, directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever, solicit, encourage, persuade or influence any party or potential party to a pending or a completed transaction to utilise or refrain from utilising — the services of any particular attorney, conveyancer or firm of attorneys.’”

The agencies entered into “marketing agreements” with Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes between 1999 and 2000.

The Cape Law Society stepped in and instituted disciplinary action against one of the law firm’s directors, Andre Berrangé, who was suspended in 2005 from practising for two years.

The board has the power to withdraw the estate agencies’ fidelity fund certificates, and impose a suspended sentence or a fine, if they are found guilty.

Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Group, denied that unlawful marketing agreements existed with any law firm and said the agency had a good track record.

“Pam Golding Properties did receive an alleged complaint from the EAAB dated 16 August 2005. We responded to the EAAB in writing and in detail on 16 September 2005. Since then, no further steps have been taken by the EAAB against Pam Golding Properties in respect of the complaint... W e appear to be caught in the crossfire of proceedings between professional regulatory bodies and their members in relation to other estate agencies,” he said.

Speaking for Seeff, Ian Slot who is also managing director of the Seeff Atlantic Seaboard franchise, said the company as a whole had not entered into agreements with Berrangé. Only one franchise was involved, he said. He could not comment on the board’s investigation.

Meanwhile, the Cape Law Society is probing all the directors of Smit Tabata Buchanan Boyes, said the firm’s managing partner, Andy McPherson.


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