Property managers are more likely to get themselves in hot water than sales agents under Queensland’s controversial new anti-gang laws.
The warning from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) comes after one Gold Coast property agent became the state’s first white-collar worker charged under the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act (VLAD).
Garry Raymond Green, 33, is alleged to have helped drug smugglers invest their profits and has been charged under the tough new VLAD laws. It’s been reported that at Mr Green’s bail hearing on Tuesday, senior sergeant Mark Gorton said he was more than just a property agent for the gang, and that he “assisted in the movement of drug money into properties”.
REIQ’s deputy CEO and general counsel, Antonia Mercorella, told Real Estate Business that it’s more likely that a problem may arise in a tenancy situation.
“In a tenancy situation the agent has an ongoing interaction with the tenant,” said Ms Mercorella, adding that property managers are expected to carry out routine quarterly inspections, which means they continue to have a relationship with that person.
"So, say for example in the course of your inspection you find the rental property is being used as a drug lab for instance, then it goes without saying the agents should be reporting it to the authorities immediately," she said.
Ms Mercorella added that although REIQ has fielded inquiries from real estate agents concerned about the implications of the anti-gang laws, they really have little to fear if they’re going about their normal daily business of providing a real estate service to individuals or organisations.
"I don’t think the VLAD legislation is what agents should be worrying about, more the changes to the Criminal Code,” said Ms Mercorella.
"There are two limbs to this that need to be satisfied for a real estate agent to be captured under it. The first is an agent must be a participant in the criminal organisation, and secondly, be knowingly present in a public place with other participants of the organisation," she added.
Ms Mercorella advised that this is where real estate agents need to tread carefully when dealing with suspected criminal organisations, but added that agents involved in selling properties will seldom know the ins and outs of what prospective tenants do for a living.
“I would argue that if you’re a real estate agent simply carrying out your normal busy activities, I don’t think that would make you fall foul of the Criminal Code … it would not constitute an offence against the Code.
“There’s a misconception out there that simply dealing with someone who is in a criminal organisation would be sufficient to constitute a breach of the Criminal Code, but I don’t read it that way,” she said.
Ms Mercorella added that from REIQ’s perspective there has not been any major repercussions from the new laws.