A Barfoot & Thompson agent and her boss were fined $8000 for misleading advice about whether views would blocked by a nearby housing development.
Agent Yan Lin and branch manager Tony Carter of Barfoot & Thompson's Torbay office on the North Shore were censured in a decision released by the Real Estate Agents Authority where she was fined $6000 and he was fined $2000.
"Licensee Lin provided misleading advice that views from the property could not be blocked by the construction of a dwelling on an adjacent property," the decision said. After the sale, construction work nearby resulted in the complainant seeing "beams" and a "high block".
But Yin told her there "was no issue and what she was looking at was only to check the stability of the dwelling," the decision said.
The buyer asked on multiple occasions if the views could be blocked and was told by Lin they could not be.
Before making an offer to buy the house at 9 Bridget Court, Red Beach, Lin said the neighbouring building on an adjacent property "was not able to block the view and views would remain."
Lin also told the buyer there was another offer for a higher price so the buyer complained of unfair pressure, saying she made her offer due to the multi-offer situation and because she wanted the property for its views and privacy.
The complainant later discovered from Carter that the other offer was lower than hers.
After settlement, a new house went up on the adjacent site which substantially "destroyed/blocked the views" so the buyer wanted financial compensation for the loss of views or else to be assisted to sell and buy another house.
In her defence, Lin said the house she sold was in a residential subdivision with houses under construction. She was aware of the new house going up nearby due to foundations being excavated and discussed that with the complainant when they looked out a window.
Because she did not consider the property to have views, Lin did not refer to views in her marketing although she acknowledged one photo on the agency website showed the outlook over the neighbourhood.
Carter investigated the buyer's complaint against Lin but did not accept it and declined to provide any redress. He did not believe Lin would promise views, knowing a new house was being built that would probably obstruct some of them. There was an "unfortunate" marketing photo from the driveway of the outlook, he acknowledged.
But a Complaints Assessment Committee found both Lin and Carter had engaged in unsatisfactory conduct, preferring the evidence of the complainant over the issue of views and "some of what Lin says is inherently not credible". Carter's investigation of the complaint was too narrow and there were flaws in his reasoning, the committee decided.
The vendor of the house at the centre of the complaint was also the owner of the adjacent view-blocking property. Carter said it was also building several other properties and his agency expected to list them shortly.
The committee found a potential "and quite possibly actual" conflict of interest in that situation.
Asked after the decision for comment, Barfoot & Thompson's Lin refused and hung up. Carter said no successful complaints had been made against Barfoot & Thompson's Torbay office in 10 years.
Max House, Barfoot & Thompson compliance manager, said investigations determined that the information Lin provided to the buyer on the views was not correct and that the drafting of the maintenance clause in the sale and purchase agreement was inadequate. The committee determined that the management and supervision of Lin by Carter fell short of the required standard, House said.
"We have reviewed the CAC decisions; they are fulsome and detailed. We have also reviewed and accepted the penalties that the CAC has applied to Ms Lin and Mr Carter and have made the decision not to appeal," House said.
The Torbay branch had been subject to four complaints to the Real Estate Authority, he said: two resulted in the authority issuing compliance advice letters and the other two were investigated by a Complaints Assessment Committee with no further action to be taken, House said.