‘We can’t force them’ – Real Estate Authority on Covid vaccinations for 16,000 agents, managers

A state authority says it can’t force 16,000 real estate agents and property managers to be vaccinated.

Belinda Moffat, Real Estate Authority chief executive, said agents were not required to be vaccinated and her entity certainly could not force them to be.

Nor does it know how many of the 16,195 licensed agents have had the Pfizer vaccination.

“The authority does not have the mandate to require vaccination or vaccination certificates in the real estate sector,” Moffat said today.

Her comments follow a Herald story about Ray White Remuera agent Roy Champtaloup who is banned from his Remuera office for not being vaccinated.

“There is no mandate for the real estate sector to be vaccinated or to have vaccine certificates,” Moffat said.

Education and health staff including teachers need to be fully vaccinated soon or face losing their jobs. Last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced workers at businesses where vaccine passports are required will have four weeks to get the jab – or risk losing their jobs

But real estate agents are not on the Government’s vaxxed hit list.

More than 90,000 homes were sold in the 12 months to March for $77.3 billion, the Real Estate Institute reported. Agent numbers are up, from 15,512 people last year to 16,195 people this year.

Megan Jaffe, founder and owner of Ray White Remuera, banned any non-vaccinated staff from her Remuera Rd offices. She said she had interviewed all 100 staff and asked about their vaccination status. Only seven were not fully vaxxed, she said.

Moffat said the authority does expect agents to comply with Government demands on keeping people safe.

“As the conduct regulator, the authority does expect real estate agents to meet all regulatory requirements as required under the code of conduct. Therefore, it expect the real estate sector to comply with all health orders and to mitigate any risks arising in real estate agency work and to undertake and have in place appropriate health and safety risk assessments to ensure the safety of themselves, their customers and clients.

If the state demands agents are jabbed, Moffat said the authority would be involved.

“We will ensure that licensees are made aware of the requirements. We support the vaccination programme as part of the response to Covid-19 for those who are able to be vaccinated,” she said.

Vaccination status is personal information and licensees can choose whether they disclose that or not, Moffat said.

“The authority continues to provide guidance to the real estate sector on how to apply the health orders under the current alert level system.

“When more information is provided on how the protection framework will apply, we will develop our guidance. At this stage, we encourage all real estate professionals to carefully assess the health and safety risks and to apply the infection prevention controls promoted and mandated by Government,” Moffat said.

REINZ says agency bosses “cannot require staff to be vaccinated”.

But it refers to bosses encouraging staff to do so and giving time off for that. A vendor could refuse to let an agent into their home if they’re not fully vaccinated, REINZ says. Tenants can do the same with unvaccinated managers.

Champtaloup is a licensed salesperson with the authority. He has no current listings after last month returning from an extended European summer holiday where he sailed the Greek islands.

He has been one of the agencies’ top-selling agents but says he has no direct or personal contact with clients because he is living in the South Island. He has been working over the phone only.

On July 1, he left for London and Greece, returning to New Zealand last month for a fortnight’s MIQ at Auckland’s Waipuna Hotel.

He is based in Arrowtown where he has been for the past month but hopes to return to Auckland in the next few weeks because his family home here is being sold.

He has been an agent for 18 years and said had sold many millions of dollars of properties in Remuera, regularly listed as a “premier performer” and “elite performer” from 2013 onwards.

“I’ve got a strong point of view on vaccination. People are just tuning in to what they see and hear. They’re being bombarded with cases daily recorded and announced by the Government.”

Asked about being barred from his Remuera office, he said: “If anybody is going to keep people out of their offices because they haven’t succumbed to this ridiculous mandate, then I’m not interested in going into the office.”

Champtaloup, 63, said he had suffered from pleurisy and pneumonia last year.

“I probably had Covid-19, although I’ve never had a positive test,” he said.

He has a mask-wearing exemption via a doctor’s letter because of his health conditions and said he didn’t wear masks on any flights to or from Europe.

Jaffe said she did not hold an opinion about the seven unvaccinated staff members at her agency but she said she had fielded “dozens” of calls from vendors inquiring about staff vaccination status.

The agency’s sales figures remained strong for the year, she said, but she is concerned about other agencies’ vaccination positions.

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