A real estate agent who sold an apartment to a dog-owning buyer knowing the animals were banned has had his case overturned and an unsatisfactory finding against him quashed.
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal upheld an appeal by the agent whose name is suppressed, against last year's decision of a complaints assessment committee which found him guilty of unsatisfactory conduct.
The agent also sought suppression of his name and the name of the agency he worked for at the time and he won on those counts as well.
The tribunal said that in 2016, he was the agent who listed and sold a unit title property to a dog-owning buyer. She knew she needed approval from the body corporate to have her dog live with her at her new home and she asked the agent to clear that with the body corporate, the tribunal's decision said.
The buyer had a cavalier spaniel which did "not yap and would not be a nuisance", she told the agent. So the agent "communicated with the body corporate chairman and the [buyer] complainant by email" about the dog and her wish that it live in the apartment with her.
But the tribunal said that after she moved in, she was required to apply for approval to have the dog there but approval was not given by the body corporate so she re-housed her dog until she sold the property.
She then complained to the Real Estate Agents Authority.
"In particular, she complained that he misled her in that, as a result of information given to her by him, she believed that she had approval to have her dog live with her at the property," the tribunal said.
She sought $5000 for the cost of the sale and $1500 in legal costs.
The complaints assessment committee decided for the buyer and against the agent.
"He [the agent] knew that having the dog live with her was important to her, he knew that a condition as to obtaining approval for the dog from the body corporate was required in her tender document, and he failed to assist her in having such a clause inserted in her tender," the tribunal noted.
However, the agent took the case to the tribunal and argued that he had disclosed the dog's presence in a series of emails and he had assisted the buyer.
The tribunal accepted submissions from the agent's lawyer, Costa Matsis, about the dog, particularly "that the licensee's email contained no false information, and contained sufficient information to make the complainant aware of the process".
The tribunal also accepted that there is no reasonable basis on which the complainant could have been misled by the omitted information into believing that she had the body corporate's approval to have her dog at the property.
The tribunal did not agree with the committee's decision: "We conclude that the committee erred in finding that the licensee had an obligation to assist, guide, or ensure that a clause was inserted into the tender document to make it conditional on approval being given for her dog."
The appeal saw the finding of unsatisfactory conduct and the associated penalty against the agent quashed.