An Auckland real estate agent found guilty of misconduct for falsifying a rent appraisal on a Sandringham property has been fined $6000 and censured.
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal heard the case against Damon Elia last month, saying the offence occurred in 2014 when he was a Bayleys licensed salesperson who had listed the Sandringham property for sale.
Elia was dealing with potential purchasers who wanted to know how much the Sandringham property could be rented for. The agent, who previously had an "unblemished" record, estimated $900 to $950/week, but then took a rent appraisal for one property, altered it and sent it to the potential buyers.
"Rather than arrange for a genuine rental appraisal to be prepared, Mr Elia altered the appraisal for the different property so that it appeared to have been prepared by the residential property manager for the property," the tribunal said in its decision.
"Licensee pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying a rental appraisal document. The licensee took an existing rental appraisal for a different property, prepared by the agency's residential property manager, and altered it to look like it had been prepared by the residential property manager," a summary of the case said.
"The tribunal would have ordered a period of suspension for three months if the licensee had not already served a period of suspension imposed by the agency," the decision said.
Bayleys' compliance manager Tony Bayley said that as a result of the complaint, Mr Elia was suspended. He said Elia no longer worked for Bayleys.
The tribunal said Elia had admitted his wrongdoing very early and had no disciplinary history. He had been suspended from practice by Bayleys and that was a factor which may be taken into account.
Elia said that Bayleys' property management team was "new and had a slow turnaround", he was in a hurry and wanted to help the potential buyers.
"He was in a real hurry and wanted to help Mr and Mrs B quickly, he took a shortcut."
He said his suspension from Bayleys was a mutual decision between himself and the agency and it had been a real cost to himself and his family.
"Apart from the immediate loss of income, it took time to regain traction in his work, making the real impact of the suspension more like five months' loss of income," the tribunal decision said.
He continued working at Bayleys till June 2016 and is now with a different agency which is aware of what occurred, the decision said.
The tribunal expressed concern about Bayleys' action in the case.
"We record our concern that the agency did not report to the authority when it received Mr and Mrs B's complaint. However, we acknowledge that the agency took the matter seriously and took steps to uphold the relevant professional obligations. It followed up the complaint with Mr Elia and following his admission, dealt with his wrongdoing by suspending him from the practice," the tribunal said.
The tribunal decided: "None of the...factors going on in his business at the time detract from the fact that he altered the appraisal document. There were other options available to him."
Read full decision here: