The warning comes after State Administrative Tribunal fined Tracey Leanne Wilson $3,500 and disqualified her from holding a licence and triennial certificate for 18 months.
The Western Australian Department of Commerce said Ms Wilson, a former director of an unnamed Perth agency, was punished for “making illegal withdrawals from the agency’s trust account”.
Her crime was to transfer $2,185 from the agency’s trust account to a suspense account in January 2014, then transfer the funds to her personal bank account in May 2014.
“The money was deducted from the property management account relating to four apartments in South Perth which the agency had managed until their contract with the owners was terminated in November 2013,” the Department of Commerce said.
“Ms Wilson mistakenly believed that a ‘liquidated damages’ clause in the contract allowed her to withdraw the money without the consent of her client.”
Consumer protection commissioner Anne Driscoll said those in charge of trust accounts must allow the court to resolve contract or financial disputes.
“The laws covering the handling of trust account moneys should not be flouted by agents or property managers,” Ms Driscoll said.
“Money held in trust does not belong to the agency, so those in control of trust accounts cannot make unilateral decisions when disputes arise and take funds without the agreement of the clients.”
Ms Driscoll said landlords expected a high standard of integrity when they placed their investments in the hands of a property manager.
“The trust account requirements are designed to separate funds being held on behalf of owners and tenants from the day-to-day financial operations of the agency,” she said.
“It is a serious breach of the law if those in control of trust accounts take money from trust accounts for either business or personal purposes.”