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Canungra real estate agent fined for making false and misleading representations

21 March 2018

A Robina man was ordered to pay $11,846 in fines and compensation by the Beaudesert Magistrates Court yesterday (20 March 2018) after a charge was brought by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for making false and misleading representations.

Lawrie Phillips pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Mr Phillips was fined $10,000, and ordered to pay $1750 in compensation and court costs of $96. A conviction was not recorded.

The court heard a Canungra couple approached Mr Phillips at his office at Canungra Realty in late August 2015 to purchase a piece of land in Canungra. Mr Phillips said he owned the property and would consider the offer from the couple. Mr Phillips contacted the couple in early September 2015 and said he had accepted their offer to purchase the land and invited the couple to his office to sign a contract of sale and pay a deposit of $12,000. The property was purchased on 2 September 2015 and settlement was expected to be within 60 days or 14 days from the Registration of Title.

At this time, Mr Phillips both verbally and in writing via the sales contract, made false and misleading representations to the consumer that he held the appropriate real estate licence to conduct this sale, and that he had ownership of the land and the authority to sell the land, all of which were false.

The couple then organised for soil tests to be done on the block of land at a cost of $1750 while the property was under contract, to begin house plans. Mr Phillips advised the couple everything was on schedule for a settlement, however as the expected settlement came closer, Mr Phillips began avoiding the couple, including not returning phone messages and continued to do so for four months.

The couple eventually recovered their deposit of $12,000 after learning some seven months after entering into the agreement that Mr Phillips did not own the land he had agreed to sell to them as it had been in the possession of a mortgagee since April 2015. The couple was left $1750 out of pocket for soil testing.

The OFT investigation also found Mr Phillips did not hold an appropriate licence or certificate as required under the Property Occupations Act 2014 to undertake the functions of an agent.

In sentencing, the court considered his guilty plea and lack of previous convictions but noted the behaviour was inappropriate and undermined the integrity of the real estate industry.

Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Routledge said the result served as a warning to real estate agents that they must comply with all their legal obligations under both the ACL and the Property Occupations Act 2014.

“Legislation regulating the conduct of real estate agents exists to protect consumers while maintaining a high standard of professionalism within the industry,” Mr Routledge said.

More information on obligations of real estate salespeople in Queensland is available on the OFT website at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.