Dealing with complaints against valuers should become quicker, more transparent under proposed new rules

Dealing with complaints against valuers should become quicker, more transparent under proposed new rules

The Government has proposed overhauling the Valuers Registration Board as part of a general tidy up of the way the profession is governed.

The Valuers Registration Board (the board)  is the profession's disciplinary body to which the public can complain if they believe a valuer's work has been substandard.

It is made up of five registered valuers and is chaired by the Valuer-General, a statutory position appointed by the Minister for Land Information (the Minister).

A Review of the Occupational Regulation of Valuers, released as a discussion document by Land Information NZ this week, found that the board's current structure did not provide sufficient accountability, transparency or independence from the profession and lacked specialist expertise.

The Review also found that the board was not required to report to the government, or to make reports available to the public on any of its registration functions or the complaints and disciplinary proceedings it handled.

"This has resulted in a lack of transparency of the scheme's operations," the Review stated. 

Annual reporting to minister

It has proposed expanding the board to seven members, of which four would be registered valuers and three would be lay people with specialist expertise in areas such as law or consumer affairs, all of who would be appointed by the Minister.

It is also proposed requiring the board to report to the minister annually and release public reports on its disciplinary proceedings.

This would bring the board into line with other regulatory groups such as the Real Estate Agents Authority, which report to their relevant ministers and publish the results of disciplinary proceedings.

The review also described the current disciplinary process as slow, expensive, inefficient and inflexible.

On average it took over two and half years for a complaint to progress to a hearing and three and a half years for a serious complaint to be resolved.

The review proposed adopting a two-tiered approach to the complaints process, allowing simpler and more straight forward complaints to be dealt with by an investigator or complaints committee, while more serious matters would be dealt with by the board's disciplinary committee. 

In either case, neither party would have a right of appeal.

Complainants who were dissatisfied with a decision could seek redress against the valuer through the Disputes Tribunal or the court, while valuers could seek a judicial review of a board decision.

The review also proposed increasing the maximum fine it could impose on valuers to $20,000, from the current $10,000.

City Sales welcomes changes

The proposed changes were welcomed by real estate agent Martin Dunn, whose agency City Sales specialises in the sale and management of Auckland CBD apartments.

Dunn was so outraged at the grossly inflated valuations property spruiking companies used to help sell shoebox apartments off the plans to financially naive mum and dad investors that he laid a complaint about one of the valuers involved with the board in early 2008 and was told it would be investigated.

In April the following year he received a letter from board saying the complaint was to go to a formal hearing, which did not occur until February 2011.

Dunn said he has not heard from the board since the hearing took place and has no idea when his complaint will be resolved. 

He said the current system was so complicated and took so long, it deterred people from making complaints.

Land Information Minister Michael Woodhouse said the proposed changes would better position the valuers regulatory scheme to meet current demands.

"While the scheme still works fundamentally well, there is room for improvement and for modernisation, to reflect the current environment," he said.

People have until August 26 to make submissions on the proposed changes outlined in the review.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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