Failure to manage a trust account and trading without a licence for three months resulted in Amanda Jones, trading as Ray White Manjimup Districts, being fined $8,000 plus $832 in costs, WA’s Consumer Protection said in a statement.
Jones pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Real Estate and Business Agents Act – seven of failing to correctly balance her trust account over an extended period, another of failure to have an audit carried out for the year ending December 2013 and one charge of unlicensed trading for three months in 2014.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the Manjimup Magistrates Court recognised the significance of these breaches of the law, and found that Jones had “drastically failed” in her duties.
“Real estate agents handle huge dollar amounts on behalf of clients and must take scrupulous care to account for that money properly,” Mr Hillyard said.
“A trust account is called as such for good reason – it’s a place where you look after other people’s hard-earned cash – and that’s why it’s regulated and needs to be managed appropriately.
“Amanda Jones’ account reconciliations were a work of fiction bearing no resemblance to the actual bank balance of the business or amount owed to clients. In the worst case, in February 2014, there was a discrepancy of over $150,000. The offending was way beyond administrative errors and the failure to have an audit meant that the discrepancies were not uncovered.”
Mr Hillyard said these offences were exacerbated when Jones said she would immediately close the real estate agency, but continued to let properties and take rent for another month.
The penalty for unlicensed trading can be as high as $20,000, but the court took into consideration the fact that Jones took responsibility by pleading guilty early, was remorseful, had suffered loss of reputation and is currently unemployed and caring for a sick child.