A disgraced former realty agent has been censured and fined for buying his clients' home without disclosing the conflict of interest to the commission-paying sellers.
In a just-released decision, the Real Estate Authority found Aaron Drever guilty of unsatisfactory conduct in connection with the 2016 West Auckland sale.
It is Drever's 12th adverse disciplinary finding - a record for any agent. He is currently struck off after losing his licence to sell homes in 2016.
Drever was commissioned to sell Maryanne and Paul Statham's Glen Eden home in 2015.
He sold it to Harper Michell Investments for $1.05 million before purchasing it himself through a company named after his cat Marmalade for $1.06m.
The two sales settled within days of each other in January 2016 and the Stathams were never informed.
In December 2017 the property was transferred to another Drever company, Speedway Track Promotions, before selling on the same day to Solution Street for $1.22m.
It means Drever pocketed $160,000 plus his cut of the Stathams' $36,000 commission and marketing costs.
The couple only learned their agent had bought their house by chance months later before laying a formal complaint against Drever and his then firm, Ray White's now-defunct Pure Realty franchise.
"We paid him to buy our house," said Maryanne, 38, a business analyst.
"It annoys me that we put our trust in these people yet they just abuse it for their own selfish gain."
The decision says Ray White, which declined to refund the couple's commission, dismissed Drever a few weeks before he bought the Stathams' home. The REA cleared Ray White of any wrongdoing.
It also found Drever's handling of the initial sale was satisfactory and there was no collusion with the developer to buy the home cheaply.
But it ruled Drever had committed unsatisfactory conduct by failing to inform the Stathams he was buying their house and that his prior disciplinary record was an aggravating factor.
"The licensee has had ample opportunity to learn from his earlier mistakes and lift his performance in the attainment of the professional standards expected of a licensee."
Drever was censured, fined $3000 and ordered to pay $1365.62 towards the Stathams' expenses.
Under the Real Estate Agents Act, a licensee wishing to acquire a client's property must disclose their conflict of interest in writing and get informed consent. They must also provide an independent registered valuation to the vendors.
The Stathams told the Herald they the decision "at least partially confirmed" that Drever's actions were wrong.
"But we were very disappointed with the penalty. It seems that the law only protects against a direct purchase by an agent or an associate/relative which leaves a massive loophole allowing them to purchase indirectly via someone with no obvious connection."
They said they were yet to receive the required payment from Drever.
"We have asked the REA what happens now but we're not holding out much hope that they have any means of enforcement.
"Once again it seems that our only recourse would be a costly and time consuming court battle to get what we were awarded."
The Weekend Herald broke the story about Drever purchasing his client's home in April last year.
He defended his actions at the time, saying he was under no legal obligation to inform the Stathams and had done nothing wrong.
"If they are upset I really am sorry. But there was no requirement under REA rules to get a valuation or signed form. It was perfectly legal."
The $160,000 mark up did not factor in holding costs, damages, legal fees or agents' fees he'd incurred.
He added that on-sales were common within the industry, but as his purchase was done outside Ray White, it was a private transaction and therefore not subject to normal procedures.
Asked if he thought buying his clients' home was ethically and morally okay, he replied: "That's an interesting question. In hindsight if you're telling me they were upset, they should have been advised. I agree."
The REA and police are currently investigating Drever's role in the on-sale of Avondale Bowling Club land.
Drever - whose failed The Grocer venture is in receivership, was unsure if he would ever return to the realty industry.
Neither Drever nor Ray White have responded to requests for comment.
TIMELINE: 44 Ambler Ave, Glen Eden
• Transfer 1
Maryanne and Paul Statham to Harper Michell Investments
Agreement date August 1, 2015. Settled January 20, 2016
Sale price $1,050,000
Harper Michell Investments to Marmalade Property Trust
Agreement date November 19, 2015. Settled January 21, 2016
Sale price $1,060,000
Marmalade Property Trust to Speedway Track Promotions
Property records incomplete. Transfer date recorded as December 4, 2017
Speedway Track Promotions to Solution Street
Agreement date May 11, 2017. Settled December 4, 2017
Sale price $1,220,000