A Christchurch property manager is accused of committing disgraceful misconduct by failing to inform tenants, one of whom was crushed to death in the 2011 quake, that their building was considered structurally unsafe.
Licensed Harcourts real estate agent Christopher Chapman has appeared this week before the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal in Christchurch.
The Herald revealed last year that Chapman had been charged with misconduct by the Real Estate Agents Authority in connection with the death of Southern Ink tattooist Matthew McEachen, 25, who died when he was hit by falling masonry as he fled the Colombo St building.
American tourist Rachel Conley, 27, was also killed.
Chapman denies wrongdoing and is defending the charge, brought under the Real Estate Agents Act.
Prosecutor Michael Hodge told the tribunal on Monday that Chapman had acted as the building manager even though he never signed an agreement. Chapman had failed to tell the tenants about safety concerns following the September 2010 quake, the Christchurch Court News reported.
The question before the tribunal was whether Chapman had breached his professional obligations as a property manager in a manner that constituted misconduct.
Hodge said Chapman arranged for an engineering inspection, then received an email saying the building was not safe for occupancy. Chapman denies receiving the email.
"What cannot be disputed, we submit, is that the defendant had information that the building was structurally unsafe to occupy and that the premises were untenantable," Hodge told the tribunal.
"We know he had this information because it is contained in his own property management reports dated September and December 2010."
Chapman was sent another report from engineers in October, advising the external walls appeared to be moving out from the building on three levels, the Christchurch Court News reported.
In February 2011 he had received further information that immediate work was required to lift the premises to a standard fit for living.
Hodge said this wasn't disclosed to the tenants.
The building had been weakened by earlier tremors and McEachen was crushed to death when the 6.3 quake struck on February 22.
"We say that the non-disclosure does meet the misconduct threshold," Hodge said.
Defence counsel Philip Rzepecky told the tribunal today there was "considerable confusion" over the building's structural reliability.
He said an engineer inspected the building on October 4, 2010 but did not think the tenants were in any immediate danger, Fairfax reported. He inspected again twice more the following month.
Rzepecky told the tribunal: "Mr Chapman did not act without any regard to the interests of the owners of Southern Ink or any other party. His conduct does not reach the high threshold for a finding of disgraceful misconduct based on any conduct which could be characterised as morally reprehensible and which showed indifference by him to the rights of others."
The hearing continues this week.