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Real estate salesperson fined for misappropriating rental bond refunds

13 March 2019

An Inala based real estate salesperson was ordered to pay a total of $21,822 in fines and compensation in the Richlands Magistrates Court yesterday (13 March 2019) following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation.

Van-Thanh Pham, employed as a salesperson with Sunray Property Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Sunray Realty, was found guilty of one count of wrongfully converting bond money under the Property Occupations Act 2014.

Ms Pham was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay a total of $6,822 to five affected tenants. A conviction was recorded.

The OFT began investigating Sunray Realty in August 2017 after receiving complaints alleging that payments had not been made or receipted to owners, and tenant applications had not been correctly lodged with the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA).

The court heard between 1 November 2017 and 6 February 2018, Ms Pham dishonestly lodged five applications to the RTA for a refund of tenant’s bond money without their knowledge.

Ms Pham then opened three separate bank accounts in her name to avoid suspicion from the RTA, and converted a total of $6,822 into these accounts for her own personal use.

In sentencing, Magistrate Shearer said Ms Pham’s significant penalty took into account the serious breach of trust that had been committed with a degree of sophistication, as well as the salesperson’s lack of remorse.

Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said any tampering with rental bond monies was a serious breach of tenants’ trust and an agent’s legislative obligations.

“This matter was especially serious as it appears Ms Pham has set out to deceive vulnerable consumers for whom English is not their first language,” Mr Turner said.

“Those certified and licensed to work in the property industry in Queensland must act fairly and lawfully.

“Bond money held by the RTA belongs to tenants, and the OFT will not tolerate members of the property industry treating it as their own.”

Anyone who believes a real estate agent may have misappropriated trust money is encouraged to lodge a complaint and provide available evidence to the OFT at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.