Agents square off in Supreme Court

An agent has expressed his surprise after a court ordered him to compensate his former business partners and stay away from their clients.

The Supreme Court of NSW ordered Geoffrey John Pickering and his Sydney agency, Coastview Real Estate, to pay $18,900 to Properties Northside and to pay their legal costs.

Mr Pickering told Real Estate Business that he was surprised by the court’s decision.

“We thought it was extremely inconsistent and we’re very disappointed at the judge’s ruling,” he said. “How it’s got to this point is beyond me.”

The origin of the legal dispute was a decision by Mr Pickering to go into business with two former colleagues, Marlena Jane Sait and Tobias Hutton. They formed a business called Properties Northside, which started trading as Raine & Horne Manly in June 2010.

The court heard that Mr Pickering then asked his two partners to buy him out in August 2011. A deal was struck in December, which called for Properties Northside to pay Mr Pickering $250,000 for his shareholding and about $60,000 for the capital held by him in the company.

As part of the deal, Mr Pickering agreed that in the next five years he would not establish a rival business within five kilometres of Properties Northside or poach any clients or staff, according to the court.

Mr Pickering remained at Properties Northside as an employee, but then in June 2013 he opened a business called Coastview that was based 4.7 kilometres away, according to the court. 

Properties Northside initiated legal action in August 2013, but that was settled eight days later by a new agreement that allowed Coastview to continue trading at the same address.

Mr Pickering agreed to pay Properties Northside $20,000 as well as referral fees and a share of his commission on certain local sales made between April 2013 and April 2016.

He also agreed not to poach certain clients or properties between April 2013 and April 2018.

However, in October 2014, Properties Northside launched new legal proceedings, alleging that Mr Pickering and Coastview had taken on three forbidden deals.

Properties Northside asked for $25,882 compensation for a Freshwater property that Coastview had listed and let, but was awarded only $9,000.

The court decided that the landlord would probably – but not definitely – have given his business to Properties Northside if he had known that Mr Pickering was not allowed to represent him.

Properties Northside also claimed $9,900 or 50 per cent of the gross commission earned by Coastview on the sale of a Curl Curl home, which the judge accepted.

Properties Northside also asked for the $22,880 commission that Coastview had earned for the sale of another Curl Curl home.

The court rejected this claim on the basis that the vendor would not have used Properties Northside if he had known that Mr Pickering was not meant to sell his home.

The court also ruled that Coastview could not do business before April 2018 with any of the clients who were on Properties Northside’s books before August 2013.

[Related: Court nails real estate boss after long-running pursuit]

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