Port Douglas resident letting agent in court
22 August 2019
Port Douglas resident letting agent Damien Bernard Dunlop was ordered to pay $33,398.77 in fines and compensation by the Mossman Magistrates Court today (22 August 2019) for making unauthorised transfers of trust account money, making a false representation and providing false information on an official document.
Mr Dunlop pleaded guilty to 39 charges brought by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for breaches of the Agents Financial Administration Act 2014 and Property Occupations Act 2014.
Mr Dunlop was fined $20,000 and a further $13,398.77 was awarded in compensation to two affected consumers. No conviction was recorded.
The court heard that between 1 January 2018 and 1 June 2018, Mr Dunlop failed to bank cash into the agent’s trust account by the end of the following business day - a requirement of the law regulating the Queensland property industry.
Between 18 April 2018 and 12 September 2018, Mr Dunlop provided false information on an official ‘Appointment to act’ form and continued to act as a resident letting agent on behalf numerous clients when he had not been properly appointed to do so.
The court also heard that during the investigation, Mr Dunlop gave a document to an OFT official containing information he knew was false or misleading, and that he had made false representations about a property to a prospective buyer.
The court further heard that Mr Dunlop charged property owners for expenses for amounts that were much higher than the owners had agreed on the appointment forms.
In sentencing, Acting Magistrate Raymond Hegge said that the charges facing Mr Dunlop were not just offences of a technical nature by definition under the relevant acts. Strong consideration was given of the need to maintain confidence in the letting industry and a message of deterrence needed to be sent.
Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said agents must not do anything for a client unless they are properly appointed as required by the Property Occupations Act 2014.
“It is a requirement under Queensland laws that a property agent must not act for a client until they are appointed in writing on the prescribed form,” Mr Turner said.
“This is an important form. The contents of this form sets out the rights and obligations of both parties - what the agent is authorised to do on behalf of the property owner and what fees, expenses, commissions and other charges the agent may incur.
“This case should act as a reminder to all letting agents to check you have been properly appointed by your property owners, and to ensure your financial processes meet the legislative requirements.”
Resident letting agents can find information about their legislative requirements on the OFT website. The OFT has also produced a guide to assist in managing trust accounts which can be downloaded from the OFT website or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
Anyone who has concerns the practices of a resident letting agent do not comply with the law can lodge a complaint at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.