Lane Nichols is a senior NZ Herald reporter

Misconduct charge: Real estate agent named

Licensed Harcourts real estate agent Christopher Chapman is accused of serious negligence and disgraceful conduct. Photo / Supplied
Licensed Harcourts real estate agent Christopher Chapman is accused of serious negligence and disgraceful conduct. Photo / Supplied

Under investigation

• Property manager Christopher Chapman accused of failing to tell Christchurch tenants their building was structurally unsafe.
• The building had been weakened by the September 2010 earthquake and Southern Ink tattooist Matthew McEachen was subsequently killed by falling masonry.
• Mr Chapman is now facing a misconduct charge and is also under police investigation, but denies breaching professional standards.
• He can now be named after losing name suppression and a High Court appeal.

A Christchurch property manager under police investigation and facing a misconduct charge after a tattooist was crushed to death in the February 2011 quake can now be named.

Licensed Harcourts real estate agent Christopher Chapman is accused of serious negligence and disgraceful conduct amid claims he failed to inform a commercial building's tenants the property had been deemed structurally unsafe by engineers.

The building had been weakened by earlier tremors and Southern Ink tattooist Matthew McEachen, 25, was subsequently crushed to death by falling masonry.

Police confirmed to the Herald that Southern Ink's Colombo St premises is one of 24 Christchurch earthquake fatality sites currently under investigation and Mr Chapman's actions were also being investigated.

Matthew McEachen. Photo / Supplied
Matthew McEachen. Photo / Supplied

"We are looking at all factors and those involved with the management and decision-making around the property being occupied when the earthquake struck," Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said.

The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) charged Mr Chapman with misconduct last year. It alleges he failed to tell the building's tenants it was unsafe to occupy despite them raising repeated concerns about its structural integrity and their personal safety.

Mr Chapman appealed the REAA's decision to lay a charge against him and was granted interim name suppression. But a finding issued in December by the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found a case to answer.

He appealed to the High Court but his appeal was thrown out last month and name suppression ended at midnight last night.

The tribunal decision said the building owners contacted Mr Chapman after the September 2010 earthquake for assistance. He put them in touch with an engineering firm, who inspected the building and provided a report stating it was "Not Safe" to occupy, later warning: "The external walls appear to be moving out from the building on three elevations" and that urgent work was needed to check stability.

Southern Ink owner Matt Parkin repeatedly emailed Mr Chapman about safety concerns, saying he was nervous bringing clients in "when you still haven't confirmed whether the building has been deemed safe or not".

Another email asked: "Is there quite abit [sic] of damage up there? And if so how safe are we downstairs mate :)"

An October 8, 2010 email from Mr Chapman said it might be some time before the building could be legally tenanted. The email "did not refer to the premises as being structurally unsafe to occupy or to the concerns about the external walls", the tribunal said.

Harcourts today referred inquiries to Mr Chapman's lawyer, Philip Rzepecky, who said both the company and Mr Chapman denied any breach of proper professional standards.

Mr Chapman was only assisting the landlord to deal with issues that arose following the first Christchurch earthquake and had not been contracted to manage the property at the time of the February 2011 collapse.

The tattoo studio was able to remain in the building following the September 2010 earthquake because Christchurch City Council gave the shop a green sticker, Mr Rzepecky said.

Mr Chapman remained a valued and highly regarded member of NAI Harcourts team.

The matter will now go to a formal tribunal hearing.

- NZ Herald

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