Reprimand and fine for agency over trust account violations: Real estate bulletin issue 125 (November 2016)

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Property industry

3 November 2016

Realty Executives / Keith Howes

A Morley real estate agency has been reprimanded and fined by the State Administrative Tribunal for failing to comply with laws relating to the operation of trust accounts.

Realocate Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Realty Executives, was fined $5,000 and licensee Keith Howes was fined $1,500 after admitting to the breaches. Both were ordered to pay a total of $1,000 in costs.

Consumer Protection began disciplinary action against the agency after it was found through a qualified audit report that the company had, at various times between February 2014 and January 2016, breached the Real Estate and Business Agents Act by:

  • Failing to pay money received into their trust account as soon as practicable;
  • Failing to keep full and accurate accounts of all monies   received or held by it;
  • Failing to record the details of payments received before the end of the next business day;
  • Failing to correctly balance the accounts at the end of each month; and
  • Receiving payments for property management services which were greater than the amounts agreed to in writing. 

Mr Howes had breached the Code of Conduct for Real Estate Agents and Sales Representatives by failing to properly supervise the agency, being the person in bona fide control.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said all WA real estate agencies must comply with every aspect of the law relating to the operation of their trust accounts.

“Real estate agencies can hold large amounts of money in trust for tenants and property owners – that’s why there are strict rules surrounding the handling of those funds and regular accounting and auditing of trust accounts,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Agents and their employees should be aware of the procedures relating to the handling of bond and rent payments from tenants and make sure there are systems in place to ensure the funds are handled in accordance with the law.”

More information regarding the obligations of real estate agents and sales representatives is available from the Real Estate and Business Agents’ Trust Account Handbook.

Further enquiries can be made by email or by calling 1300 30 40 54

Consumer Protection
Last updated 03 Nov 2016

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