Agent disqualified for misusing trust money

A Victorian agent has had his licence cancelled after he used trust money as a line of credit to support his new business.

Consumer Affairs Victoria reported that the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal had cancelled Mr Rounds’ and his company Colin Rounds Real Estate Pty Ltd’s licences, effective November 20.

It has also disqualified them from holding estate agent licences for 12 months and reprimanded Mr Rounds in orders that were made on November 6.

Mr Rounds is also unable to act as an agent’s representative for six months from November 20.

The tribunal said it was “completely unacceptable” for a real estate agent who had experienced hardships to use trust funds to tide a business over, even for a short period.

It found that Mr Rounds' conduct was that of a person who was not fit and proper to practise, and said this conclusion also applied to the company.

The tribunal said there was no more serious breach of an estate agent's professional duties than taking money held on behalf of clients on trust, and using them for his or her own purposes.

At a hearing last month, the director of Consumer Affairs Victoria alleged Mr Rounds had used trust money to pay debts associated with his new real estate business, from April 2011 to May 2012.

His sales trust account showed a deficiency during this period and one client was deprived of a $46,900 payment for about three weeks. Mr Rounds reimbursed the client in full in December 2011 and repaid the total trust account deficiency in May 2012.

Under the Estate Agents Act 1980 it is an offence for an estate agent to fraudulently convert to their own use any money they receive on behalf of any person in relation to a real estate transaction.

When contacted by Real Estate Business yesterday, Mr Rounds denied the charges and said that he had appealed against them.

“It stinks because other people have done a similar thing and they’ve got lesser punishments, so that’s why we’re appealing,” he said.

“I can show cases that are similar, if not worse, offences done and they got three months’ suspension. The guy never paid the money back. The guy took $160,000.”

Consumer Affairs Victoria confirmed with Real Estate Business that Mr Rounds' and Colin Rounds Real Estate Pty Ltd's licence would be cancelled and would come into effect at 4PM (AEST) on November 20.

Rounds Real Estate is now under new ownership/management.

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