Court backs agency in commission dispute

A legal tribunal has given heart to agents who want to chase fees, even if they get sacked during the sale process.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ruled that Century 21 West Property Group should be paid a commission for a sale, even though it was dismissed before the contract was signed.

The case rested on whether or not the Brisbane agency was entitled to claim it was formally responsible for connecting the buyers with the sellers.

The vendors, Jason Hunter Lewis and Silvana Piccirillo, argued that they deserved credit for finding the buyers, because the buyers responded to vendor-paid advertising rather than an approach from West Property.

However, the tribunal ruled that West Property had formally introduced the buyers through organising advertising, holding open homes and negotiating the terms of a contract.

“That was the purpose of the appointment. The fact that Mr Lewis and Ms Piccirillo paid for the advertising is not a relevant consideration,” according to the tribunal.

The dispute dated back to 1 February 2014, when the eventual buyers inspected the Cashmere home with a West Property agent.

On 12 February, West Property presented a signed contract to Mr Lewis and Ms Piccirillo, which included special conditions requested by the buyers.

The three parties had back-and-forth discussions about the conditions during 13 and 14 February, which concluded with the agent telling the vendors that the buyers were happy to proceed with the purchase.

However, on February 15, the vendors terminated West’s appointment and hired new agents.

“They eventually sold the Cashmere property to the same buyers on the same terms as West presented to them on 12 February 2014,” according to the tribunal.

Mr Lewis and Ms Piccirillo argued that their decision to invest time and money in hiring new agents proved that they didn’t believe West Property had finalised a deal.

The tribunal deemed that to be an irrelevant issue because an introduction had occurred regardless.

“West warned Mr Lewis and Ms Piccirillo about the possibility of double commission in its email of 15 February,” the tribunal ruled.

“They cannot say they did not know of the risk. They cannot now say that they did not understand the terms of West’s appointment.”

The tribunal ordered the vendors to pay $12,696 to West Property – $11,000 in commission, and $1,696 in interest and filing fees.

[Related: Break rules at your peril, agents warned]

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