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$24k fine and suspension over dishonest property sale conduct (Sunrun Nominees Pty Ltd trading as House Real Estate WA and Frank Andrew Torre)
A WA real estate agency and sales representative have been fined $12,000 each as part of State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) disciplinary action by Consumer Protection over dishonest conduct during property sale transactions.
Sunrun Nominees Pty Ltd trading as House Real Estate WA and Frank Andrew Torre are subject to orders after contravening the Real Estate and Business Agents Act 1978 and the Code of Conduct for Agents and Sales Representatives. In addition to the fines, Sunrun has been reprimanded and must pay $3,000 in costs, while Mr Torre, who is a director and shareholder, will have his sales representative licence suspended for 3 months from 3 March 2017 and has to pay costs of $4,884.
The penalties relate to:
- Early receipt of commissions in 2012 and 2013 for 9 properties in Mosman Park, Cottesloe, North Fremantle, Peppermint Grove, Woodlands, Swanbourne and Claremont. Amounts withdrawn by Sunrun, on Mr Torre’s instruction, prior to settlement totalled $315,040. Mr Torre also dishonestly obtained consent from vendors even though consent did not make the early receipt of commission legal.
- A deposit paid by a home-buyer going into a separate interest bearing account without the permission of the purchaser.
- Failure to properly manage trust accounts, for example not recording all sales transactions; failing to balance the books during the 2013 audit year and not notifying the Commissioner for Consumer Protection when an account was overdrawn in 2014 (contraventions only relate to Sunrun Nominees).
- Misappropriation of funds – in January 2013 $6,000 was withdrawn from the Sales Trust Account and transferred to Mr Torre’s personal account when he was only entitled to take $457.59. A further $1,000 was transferred to Mr Torre’s personal bank account from a sale where he wasn’t entitled to any funds.
The SAT hearing was on 9 December 2016 and final orders were delivered on 17 February 2017; those in relation to Sunrun were by consent.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard warned a zero tolerance approach will be taken to any agent who undertakes dishonest and inappropriate trust account practices that place clients’ moneys at risk.
“Our case acts as a clear warning to all sales representatives who are directors of corporate real estate agencies that you cannot escape or avoid liability for your actions simply because you are not licensed as a real estate agent,” he said.
“In this instance, Mr Torre sought to argue that as a sales representative, he should be held to a lower standard than that of a fully licensed agent. Our investigation revealed that Mr Torre was the true guiding mind of Sunrun and through our actions in the SAT he’s been held accountable for those transgressions.
“This sends a strong message to the subjects of this disciplinary action and the wider real estate industry in WA that dishonest and unfair behaviour will be detected and result in financial and personal consequences.
“To be licensed and allowed to practice as a real estate agent or sales representative in WA, certain standards of character and fitness must be maintained at all times.”
Media contact (Consumer Protection)
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