The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) hopes the launch of a new complaints handling system will reduce the number of official complaints against real estate agents.
The REAA receives around 150 calls a week from people unhappy about their dealings with estate agents, with an average of 13 complaints going through to the formal investigation process.
Chief executive Keith Manch said he hoped the new system being launched in the next few weeks would reduce that number to three or four.
Under the present system the watchdog refers complaints to a complaints assessment committee, leading to a full-scale investigation often taking months.
Under the new system, case managers will assess incoming complaints putting them into three categories; situations where the client had suffered no adverse consequences, the breach was unintentional and was a one-off, and there were no broader implications. These cases would see the agent contacted and asked to rectify the mistake.
Disputes between parties where the REAA would act as a mediator, and lastly more serious matters that would go through the official complaints procedure.
Manch said he hoped the new system would "head the problems off at the pass. That's probably a more effective way of improving the industry."
The changes were also welcomed by Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) chief executive Helen O'Sullivan, who said real estate agents main concern was seeing complaints resolved in a timely and cost effective manner.
"If you send all these low-level complaints to the complaints assessment committee, it's expensive," she said.
In its May newsletter, the REAA included a table of the types of complaints received.
Topping the list with 23% were complaints about incompetency/negligence (such as not passing on written offers), followed by misrepresentation (12%), marketing (12%) and property management (eg, a licensee property manager failing to maintain a landlord's property as agreed, 9%).
Other types of complaint centred on commission disputes (8%), unlicensed trading (8%), non-disclosure (5%), confidentiality breaches and conflicts of interest (2% respectively).