Author: Chuka Uroko
Increasingly, the plight of real estate consumers, especially unsuspecting and prospective tenants, is receiving attention and concern of stakeholders in the housing sector who are devising means of protecting them from the unwholesome activities of quacks.
Leading this fight is the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), which has registered a body known as Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria which aim is to ensure people seeking real estate services don’t fall prey to pseudo practitioners.
Hopefully, by the next six months, when the institution expects to have perfected its acts, sanity will return to the estate agency practice, meaning an end of the road for dupes and quacks in the housing sector.
Emeka Eleh, president, NIESV, who disclosed this to BusinessDay in an interview in Lagos, said his institution had taken up this challenge as a consumer protection function aimed to serve public interest.
“I must say that quackery is in every profession, but in our case it is too pervasive because housing is so crucial to human needs. What we have done is to establish an Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria. It took a while for us to register the association with CAC, but we have got that behind us. An interim exco committee is working out modalities for the membership of the association,” he said.
Eleh believes that this initiative would go a long way to improve estate agency practice “because with this you can trace your agent to his office, unlike the man on the street with a briefcase who will collect money from you and disappear.”
According to him, they want to achieve some level of standard and sanity in the agency practice like what obtains in developed countries where the practice is regulated, lamenting that in Nigeria, agency practice is an all-comers affair.
“We believe that this effort will be good for the society because even property owners will be sure of their rental income, which they will be taking at the appropriate time. This could also be an instrument to tackle the issue of money laundering because if everybody is under one umbrella, it would be easy to track who does what unlike now when nobody knows who is where, or who does what,” he said.
The president urged all estate agency practitioners who were not members of NIESV to join the association, pointing out however that they expect intending members to have a minimum qualification of secondary school certificate.
“The advantage that such members have is that the association is backed by our institution, which is regulated by law. Also, members will get some level of induction because we are going to teach them how to operate, and they will swear to our code of ethics and practice so that, when something goes wrong, we will have references,” he said.
Recently, the Lagos State government started the operations of Real Estate Transaction Department (LASRETRAD). The department, which began operations in January, is meant to checkmate the activities of some estate agents who have been extorting money from innocent Lagosians in the name of getting accommodation for them.
According to Jimoh Ajao, special adviser to the governor on housing, the department will be responsible for regulation and monitoring of the activities of estate agents in the state, ensure that residents are adequately protected in the course of transaction with estate agents through the entrenchment of the principle of fair play, orderly conduct and accountability in the real estate sector of the state. The department is empowered to ensure that the public and governmental activities are carried out in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations.