A Gold Coast agent has used tenant’s bond money to pay for his upcoming wedding and for marketing expenses for his agency.
According to the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) Bradley James Scott principal of Smart Realty in Queensland, withdrew almost $30,000 from the company's trust account because he had not received a lot of financial assistance from his parents in the lead up to his wedding, which would cost $30,000.
Mr Scott spent $17,000 on the wedding and $10,000 on printing, design and distribution for a leaflet dropping campaign for the business. But in a letter to the department, Mr Scott said he believed his withdrawals did not affect his clients and therefore he was not doing anything wrong.
“I did not make this mistake maliciously or consciously, knowing I was doing the wrong thing. I honestly thought it was all OK and that it wasn't that big a deal, to be honest. I try and run a tight ship and always act above board and do things by the book,” he said.
Mr Scott made a total of 13 withdrawals from the trust account between May and August of 2010 worth $27,800 all up.
After the issue of the missing money was flagged by his accountant, Mr Scott contacted Fair Trading and cooperated with investigators. He also repaid the money in full.
According to QCAT, member David Paratz deemed Mr Scott’s actions to be deliberate.
“Mr Scott is not a naïve man. He is a sophisticated individual,” he said.
“He has a tertiary degree in finance and has worked as a business banker for a major bank. He is an astute business person and has built up a substantial business.
“The actions of Mr Scott were deliberate and methodical. He had completed training in the industry, and in trust account management. Given his education and professional background, it is not believable that he would not have had an apprehension that what he was doing was wrong.”
Mr Scott and his real estate agency were fined $5,000 each and ordered payment of $398.55 compensation for lost interest, after taking into account character references and Mr Scott's confession.
Mr Scott and the agency were also disqualified from holding a licence or registration for five years with a suspended sentence.