A pilot group of about 100 agents who are members of Institute of Estate Agents of SA (IEASA), were selected to make the first applications using the new system (initiated on September 23) and they will report back to the EAAB on their successes and failures.
"The test run will answer questions about the efficiency and ease of making applications online as well as to how large a load the system will be able to handle at one time," says Dianne Brock of the Western Cape IEASA.
"The new system, when it is up and running, will award the certificate within three days of the application being made. A printed certificate will then follow by registered post. If applications are turned down for any reason, applicants will be informed and further information will be requested if required.
"This will be a huge improvement on anything we have had in the past when fidelity fund certificates were on occasion not issued for months after applications were made."
It is surprising how often property sellers appoint estate agents without checking on their track records or asking to see their fidelity fund certificates, says Dante Fratti, chief executive of DF Properties, which focuses primarily on the Century City precinct.
"Contractors, suppliers and even professional designers and engineers are often asked to give referrals before they can expect a job - but for some reason agents are very seldom subjected to this sort of examination."
Fratti says he is always willing to supply a list of recent buyers and sellers with whom he has dealt and in his experience this has proved valuable in boosting the confidence of his clients. And sellers should always ask to see an agent's fidelity fund certificate.
"There have been several cases where agents' certificates have been out of date - and some cases where agents have operated for a year or longer without certificates.
" This can be dangerous for agents as well as sellers. If agents don't have valid fidelity fund certificates sellers could legally ask their attorneys to withhold commission.
"Similarly, if agents prove to be dishonest or inefficient, for instance if they abscond with deposits or other situations arise that deserve sanction, sellers will have no authority to whom they can appeal. This applies equally to buyers.
"Ignorance of the importance of fidelity fund certificate is still widespread among the public, and they cannot be reminded too often how essential it is to check their agent's legal status," says Fratti.