A lawyer who conducted an unlicensed real estate business in Croydon, Victoria, has been put on notice by the Supreme Court.
Peter Mericka, 57, operated an unlicensed real estate agency in conjunction with a legal practice, claiming that he didn’t need a licence because his company, Lawyers Real Estate, was an incorporated legal practice and exempt from the requirements of Victoria's Estate Agents Act.
The Supreme Court rejected these arguments and found that none of the defendants were exempt from the requirement to hold a licence.
Consumer Affairs Victoria Acting Director Dr Elizabeth Lanyon said Mr Mericka refused to adhere to the real estate licensing system.
“The licensing system is in place to protect consumers and to ensure fairness in the market place,” Dr Lanyon said.
"Buying a property is usually the biggest financial commitment a person makes so anyone who tries to avoid the controls applicable to real estate businesses will not be tolerated.”
The Court heard that Mr Mericka had been deceiving in the running of the business, with a sign in the shop reading;
“Why is a law firm selling real estate? The simple answer is that consumers want a one -stop-shop for real estate matters, and lawyers are the only professionals who can provide that service.
"Of all the service-providers in the real estate sales industry, only lawyers possess the skills and qualifications to perform every role from the very start to the very end of a real estate sale.”
The Court ordered that Mr Mericka and his companies be restrained from acting as real estate agents following action by the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria.
The Court also ordered Mr Mericka and his companies to publish public notices to alert consumers of their misconduct and to correct false statements made by them in the past.