Real estate agents guilty of multiple cases of unsatisfactory conduct

By Hana Garrett-Walker

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A real estate agent strung along a buyer for months even though the house had already sold, another put a clause in a purchase agreement which said a particular building inspection company could not be used, and another did not cancel a listing after being asked by the clients.

The one thing they all have in common? They have been repeatedly censured by the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) in the past two years.

Since coming into existence on November 17, 2009 the REAA has found real estate agents from around the country guilty of unsatisfactory conduct 109 times.

And in amongst the numerous reports and paperwork are four agents who have been found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct not once, but twice - and in one case, three times.

The Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) - an independent group administered through the REAA - is in charge of determining unsatisfactory conduct and imposing penalties.

Unsatisfactory conduct punishments range from agents being censured to being fined up to $10,000.

But if the complaint is serious enough to lay charges, the CAC refers the case to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal which can then find the agent guilty of misconduct and can cancel or suspend a licence, order termination of employment or order agents to pay fines of up to $15,000.

In the past two years nine agents have been penalised for misconduct - including one this week in which high-flying Auckland real estate agent Margaret Adams was fined $10,000 plus $5000 costs and had her licence suspended for six months after she listed and sold a house without disclosing she had helped buy it.

Since findings started being published on March 22, 2010 three agents from around the country have been either censured or fined twice for unsatisfactory conduct. Another has had three unsatisfactory conduct complaints laid against her.

Last year Christchurch realtor David Randall was fined $7500 - one of the biggest fines handed down by the REAA - for failing to tell a potential buyer a property had already been sold and stringing her along for months.

In another finding against Randall, the committee ordered he pay a $1000 fine for failing to present a client's offer to the seller.

Mr Randall worked at the Century 21 office in Christchurch at the time, but when the office was contacted a worker said "he's not working at the moment; that's all I can say".

The Century 21 head office in Auckland said he was no longer contracted with Century 21.

Inglewood agent Mark Ferguson had several complaints laid against him and in September and October of 2010 he was fined $3000 and $1000 for respectively failing to provide written appraisals and requesting early release of deposits.

Mr Ferguson could not be reached for comment, but currently has several house listings under his name.

Ernest Twigg, who works for Franklin Real Estate, has been censured twice for not following a client's instruction to cancel a listing, and not exercising skill, care, competence and diligence when an incorrect Government Valuation was displayed on the website.

When Mr Twigg was contacted for comment he said he would not comment and to talk to his manager.

His manager, Arthur Pryde, then said he would not comment.

"I'm making no comment whatsoever - you write your story and if you get it all wrong I'll sue you, it's as simple as that."

Meanwhile, Auckland realtor Debbie Lovegrove had her license reprimanded in October of 2010 for inserting a clause in a purchase agreement stating any building inspector could be used, except a particular company. Then in the same month she was fined $3000 after she used photos of a vendor's house without their permission.

And then in April last year she was censured for not having a listing agreement in place before showing a property to potential buyers. However, Ms Lovegrove was currently appealing this decision.

Ms Lovegrove, who was an agent with Lovegrove Realtors at the time, said she no longer worked in the industry anymore.

"I've had very satisfied clients; many, many testimonials of satisfied people and you can't please everybody," she said.

She felt she did the best by her customers, and said some people would always see things in a different light.

REAA acting chief executive Dean Winter said the penalties which the CAC could impose acted as a deterrent to realtors repeatedly offending.

"The penalties that can be imposed by independent CACs are substantial and significantly higher than what was available under the old act," he said.

Before the REAA came into effect in November of 2009 - as the result of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 - the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand performed a regulatory function.

The maximum fine it could impose on a realtor was $750.

But Mr Winter said the REAA had no information on the levels of complaints prior to it coming into effect and could not comment on trends.

"It will be some time before it is possible to identify complaint trends since the Act came into effect."

- APNZ

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