Learn from my mistake, says suspended principal

A real estate director who has had his licence suspended has supported the regulator’s decision and urged colleagues to heed the lesson.

Steven Charles Webster had his licence suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 after being reprimanded by the State Administrative Tribunal for mismanaging his agency’s trust accounts.

Mr Webster was sole director of Spirit Realty, formerly trading as Professionals Perth. He has also worked as a trainer at the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA).

According to the Department of Commerce, trust account money was used to pay some of the agency’s operating expenses between July 2012 and February 2014.

“A lack of record-keeping had led to difficulties in reconciling and auditing the trust account which, at certain times, had fallen into deficit,” the regulator said – although it also noted that the breaches were “careless rather than dishonest”.

Mr Webster told REB that he was embarrassed by his mistake, given that this was something he’d warned people to watch out for while working as a REIWA trainer.

“The Department of Commerce is there for a reason. I’ve got no challenge with what they’ve done – it was fair and reasonable. I wasn’t in bona fide control of certain of my employees, and the act is there for a reason,” he said.

“As they’ve said, it was careless not dishonest. I acknowledge that there were technical breaches and that I broke the act and that I deserve the punishment I’m getting.”

Mr Webster said that while certain staffers had committed the breach, he accepted responsibility.

“The lesson for all of us who are licensees is that you’ve got to have stronger supervision over who works for you. You can’t put that responsibility onto them. At the end of the day, the buck stops with us as licensees,” he said.

“It’s a lesson to us that no matter how good we think our employees are, we stay on top of them. Otherwise, you will end up breaching the act. Our act over here is very, very strong – we’re well-governed here.”

Professionals chief executive Shane Kempton told REB that these situations are always disappointing on the rare occasions they occur.

Professionals only became aware of Mr Webster’s breaches after he left the group, Mr Kempton added.

[LinkedIn: Are there any regulations that should be changed?]

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