Agency fails to abide by trust account obligations
6 March 2019
A Cleveland real estate agency was ordered to pay a total of $7,670 in fines and compensation in the Cleveland Magistrates Court yesterday (5 March 2019) following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation.
Approved Realty Pty Ltd, trading as iapproved, pleaded guilty to four counts relating to failing to pay trust account funds and one count of failing to provide information to OFT Inspectors as required under the Fair Trading Inspectors Act 2014.
Approved Realty Pty Ltd was ordered to pay $6,500 in fines, and a further $1,170 in compensation to the affected consumer.
The OFT began investigating the agency after receiving a complaint from a property owner who failed to receive rental income for his Alexandra Hills property.
The court heard the agency performed property management services for the client, including the payment of rates and lawn maintenance. Rental amounts were to be paid into the agency’s trust account and paid to the owner on a weekly basis.
Between 13 July 2017 and 27 July 2017 the agency received a total of $1,170 in rent monies that they failed to pay from the account to the property owner.
The court further heard that the agency failed to comply with a statutory notice given by OFT inspectors to provide information to assist with its investigation into the matter.
In sentencing Magistrate Deborah Vasta said agents had a duty to their clients to handle trust money appropriately.
Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said the OFT would continue to take action against property agents who put their clients funds at risk.
“Reports made to the OFT of property agents disregarding their legal obligations are taken very seriously,” Mr Turner said.
“Breaches of trust by real estate agents weakens consumer confidence in the property industry.”