Top real estate agent escapes penalty for website 'error'

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Martin Honey. Photo / Supplied
Martin Honey. Photo / Supplied

One of the country's top real estate agents will not be punished despite a disciplinary body finding that he operated a website with his former firm's branding after switching to a new company.

Martin Honey, who sold $21 million of property in Auckland last year, has been told by the Real Estate Agents Authority that it will take no further action against him, after agreeing he had fixed the "error" when it was brought to his attention.

But that has not appeased the complainant, Dermot Nottingham, who says he will appeal.

Nottingham, who has since lost his own real estate licence, was at the time of his complaint the new owner of the Re-Max Onehunga franchise.

He claimed he had lost tens of thousands of dollars because Honey's website siphoned potential buyers off to Ray White over a 14-month period.

But the authority's complaints assessment committee said there was no proof Nottingham lost anything, and that Honey had taken "considerable steps, at a considerable expense" to rebrand his agency and website. He had rebranded his office, removal truck, car, stationery and business cards and sent more than 1000 letters advising clients of the change.

An independent digital forensic report found Honey's new website "did contain active pages which showed current listings under a Re-Max branded banner".

But the authority said Honey "took considerable steps to change his website and although there might have been some extra steps available to him, agree that it was reasonable for the licensee [Honey] to rely on the technical expertise of his web designer".

Honey said he was happy to have the case behind him.

"I'm really lucky that people who do know me have supported me through it. We're very glad it's over."

He said he was looking forward to a decision on a counter-complaint he had lodged against Nottingham, alleging he had behaved unprofessionally. Nottingham denies that and the decision is due soon.

Spokeswoman Ngaire Vanderhoof confirmed the authority had blocked Nottingham's licence renewal application. She would not say why, as Nottingham was going to appeal that decision also.

Re-Max franchise development manager Ralph Stock said Nottingham was no longer associated with them.

In a lengthy email to the Herald on Sunday, Nottingham, the man who lifted the lid on odometer fraud more than a decade ago, said he would reveal all to Investigate magazine and that his appeals would run to more than 300 pages.

"I feel that this is going to be bigger than Car Wars," he said.

He also alleged that an authority staff member had tracked his daughter online. That, too, was the subject of a complaint.

- Herald on Sunday

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