Reprieve for certified Wendy Machanik estate agents

Estate agents working for Wendy Machanik Properties may continue to operate - if they have their own fidelity fund certificates for 2011, a lawyer says

“The agents in the employ of the CC [close corporation] are not really affected in the sense that no orders were granted against them,” Cyril Ziman, advocate for Wendy Machanik and Wendy Machanik Properties, told Sapa.

“They are free to seek fidelity fund certificates from the board  in their individual capacity. I am not aware of any reason not to grant it to them,” he said, referring to the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) which grants the certificates.

The certificate is required each year by the Estate Agents Act for estate agents to operate.

“If [agents] are qualified, have written the board’s exam, etc, they’re entitled to it [the certificate], either to conduct an estate agent on their own account or to take up employment with an estate agent,” Ziman said.

Wendy Machanik Properties (WMP) was provisionally ordered to not  trade as an estate agent by the High Court in Johannesburg, sitting  in Pretoria, on Thursday.

“The effect of the interim order (which relates only to WMP) is that WMP will not, in any way, operate as an estate agent until the  final determination of the matter,” said Gavin Schär, a director at  legal firm Knowles Husain Lindsay, acting for the EAAB.

“Ms Machanik’s attorneys, on her behalf, also gave an undertaking that she will not operate as an estate agent on the same terms (i.e. until the final determination of the matter),” he said in an e-mailed reply to questions.

The order followed an urgent application by the EAAB which argued that Machanik in her personal capacity and WMP did not have the necessary fidelity fund certificate for 2011 to operate.

Ziman said the order was against the CC which owns the agency business.

“It is not allowed to conduct any business as an estate agency.”    He said the matter would be reviewed again in court on Tuesday, but said the order not to operate would stand until Machanik was issued a certificate.

He said the EAAB was arguing it had not received audit reports from the CC nor from Wendy Machanik, and it was therefore not obliged to issue them with fidelity fund certificates.

“Wendy Machanik says because she has not been conducting business for her own account she’s not obliged [to submit audit reports],” he said.

“The CC is obliged and hasn’t,” he said.

On Tuesday, the parties would present their arguments in the High Court in Johannesburg.

“I expect full arguments will take place on Tuesday. If judgment  is not delivered thereafter on Tuesday then the order and undertaking may possibly be invoked for longer,” Schär said.

According to a Business Day report on Wednesday, about 300 estate agents work for WMP.

On Friday, a woman who answered the phone at WMP’s head office said she was not allowed to comment on the matter and no one else was available. The company website had a “currently under construction” notice.

Last week, the EAAB successfully applied to place the agency’s trust accounts under curatorship following alleged financial irregularities in the management of the accounts.

A forensic investigation had showed Machanik allegedly channelled funds from a trust account to her company account to keep the business afloat, The Star reported.

City Press reported on Thursday that the EAAB had opened a docket against Machanik at the Norwood police station for allegedly  stealing R25 million from her agency’s trust accounts.

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