Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Real estate agent fined fraction of possible penalty

John Lloyd forged his clients' initials on a document. Photo / File / Thinkstock
John Lloyd forged his clients' initials on a document. Photo / File / Thinkstock

A former Coromandel real estate agent who forged his clients' initials on a document has been fined $700, a fraction of the penalty he could have faced under new legislation.

John Lloyd of Tairoa denied he forged the document and then relied on it to enforce a contract.

But the Real Estate Disciplinary Tribunal found otherwise and fined Mr Lloyd $700. The maximum under legislation at the time of the offending in 2007 was $750.

New legislation came into effect in November 2009 which increased the penalty up to a maximum of $100,000 compensation.

In its decision released to APNZ, the tribunal noted Mr Lloyd had surrendered his real estate agents licence two days prior to the misconduct hearing.

That meant when the tribunal came to consider penalty, cancellation or suspension of licence was not an option.

"The tribunal does wish to note that it is concerned that Mr Lloyd apparently surrendered his licence only two days before the tribunal hearing and without the tribunal or the REAA (Real Estate Agents Authority) being aware that he had done so."

The tribunal did not have sufficient information to conclude this was done to minimise any penalty, but it considered it a "significant event" which would have been more fully explored if they had been imposing a penalty under the latest legislation.

While it accepted there was no evidence of personal gain in Mr Lloyd's forgery, the tribunal said any form of forgery by an agent, even when acting in their personal capacity, had serious consequences and was contrary to the basic premise of "total honesty" that must govern an agent.

Mr Lloyd said yesterday he would take the tribunal to task over their comments over the timing of surrendering his licence.

"I decided to leave real estate over a year before all this happened," he said.

"There was no tie-up at all."

APNZ was unable to contact Mr and Mrs Calder for comment.

The tribunal said that in 2006, Mr Lloyd met Colleen and Grant Calder, who were interested in buying a semi-detached townhouse his company was building.

During the process, Mr Lloyd prepared a memorandum of understanding (MoU), but the Calders were unhappy with its terms so did not sign it.

In March 2008 the couple agreed to a design of the property and were told a resource consent had been obtained, which was incorrect.

The Calders cancelled the agreement in October 2008.

The couple were then sent a copy of the MoU by Mr Lloyd's lawyer with a note which said: "You failed to make any mention in the Memorandum of Understanding signed sometime in May 2007."

A copy of the MoU showed initials of all parties on page 2.

The Calders denied they had signed the page, and in 2011 complained to the REAA.

The authority sent the document to a forensic document examiner who found the initials were probably forged.

Mr Lloyd denied he had forged the documents and said that if he had, he would have ensured the agreement was signed on every page, not just the second page.

The tribunal found Mr Lloyd guilty of one count of forging the initials, and said "agents of good standing would objectively consider the forgery by an agent of initials on a document as disgraceful conduct".

Mr Lloyd was charged with a second count of forging the couple's initials on the Agreement for Sale and Purchase.

However, the Calders did not believe the initials were meant to be theirs and the charge was dismissed.

Another charge relating to Mr Lloyd wrongly telling Mrs Calder a resource consent had been granted did not meet the threshold for disgraceful conduct and was dismissed because there was no real estate work involved in the transaction.

- APNZ

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