Court finds agency and sales rep guilty

A consumer watchdog has warned principals against breaking the law after an LJ Hooker licensee was fined for employing an unregistered agent.

Victor Paz from LJ Hooker Shelley-Willetton in Perth agreed to a reprimand, a fine of $2,000 and costs of $374 when appearing before the State Administrative Tribunal, according to the WA Department of Commerce.

It came after Mr Paz admitted that he had employed an unregistered sales rep and failed to ensure that the employee was compliant with the Real Estate and Business Agents Act.

The employee in question, Kirsten Leigh Hopla, was found guilty by the Perth Magistrates Court of acting as a sales rep without a certificate of registration, the department said.

Ms Hopla was fined a total of $3,200 and ordered to pay costs of $948 for incidents that occurred between December 2013 and February 2014.

The fine included a $500 penalty for not being registered and $300 on each of the nine charges of pretending to be a sales rep while involved in transactions with landlords.

The court also issued a $1,500 fine to LJ Hooker Shelley-Willetton and ordered it to pay costs of $654 after it pleaded guilty to employing Ms Hopla while she was not registered.

Consumer protection commissioner Anne Driscoll said agencies may be putting their licence at risk if they don’t ensure that employees are compliant – both before and after they’re hired.

“The licensing or registration of real estate salespeople ensures that they are properly trained and qualified to be able to handle the buying and selling of what is usually someone’s most valuable asset,” Ms Driscoll said.

“It is therefore essential that licensed agents carry out the proper checks and avoid breaking the law, which may result in serious consequences such as court penalties and damage to the agency’s reputation in the community.”

A recent auditor-general’s report found that Western Australia’s real estate system is generally sound, although it called for greater police oversight.

The Department of Commerce agreed to investigate forming an agreement with the police to monitor and identify agents charged or convicted of certain types of offences.

The report also recommended that the Department of Commerce processes complaints about agents more quickly.

[Related: Government fines agents behaving badly]

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