Court finds agent guilty of conflict of interest

An Adelaide agent has been convicted for offences relating to the sale of a dying woman’s property.

Nabil Chehade and NRC Property Group, trading as Chehade Real Estate, were convicted in the Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court over a conflict of interest.

South Australia’s regulator, Consumer and Business Services, said Mr Chehade was engaged to sell a four-bedroom Para Hills home, which was then purchased by his sister and her husband for $275,000.

Mr Chehade and Chehade Real Estate were found guilty of one count each of obtaining a beneficial interest in land they had been authorised to sell.

They were each fined $3,600, while the agency was fined an additional $3,600 for allowing another employee to act as a sales representative without a licence.

Commissioner for consumer affairs Dini Soulio said that when Mr Chehade presented the sale contract to the vendor, he failed to disclose his connection to the buyer. This was only discovered when the vendor’s son conducted his own research.

“We will never know if the property may have been sold for a lower or higher price had it not been sold to the defendant’s sister and her husband,” he said.

“By acting as he did, Chehade and his real estate company created the perception that they were not acting in the vendor’s best interests and had a conflict of interest, which might ultimately operate to the detriment of the vendor.”

Mr Soulio said aim of the law is to protect consumers by removing any conflict of interest.

“This is one of the most serious offences that a real estate agent or sales representative can commit, as it has the potential to undermine confidence in the integrity of the real estate industry as a whole,” he said.

Magistrate David McLeod, in handing down sentence, told Mr Chehade that the public has a right to expect that agents will act with integrity.

“Anything short of that, including the conduct to which you have admitted – however explained – only seeks to undermine the level of confidence in an industry where trust is fundamental,” he said.

“It also acts as fuel to perceptions about the lack of oversight of the real estate industry and the prevalence of sharp practice amongst agents and sales representatives.”

[Related: Agency punished after random inspection]

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