A property management company has defended its innocence after a court found it guilty of unlicensed trading.
Asset HQ Property Management Specialists, which is based in Sydney, was fined $9,000 by the Perth magistrates court for advertising and managing rental properties in WA without a licence.
An Asset HQ representative told Residential Property Manager it was wrongly punished because it submitted a licence application based on the guidelines on the Department of Commerce’s website.
“We put that in and then we found out soon after that we weren’t supposed to be trading, even though we were told you could start trading as soon as you put in the application,” they said.
“Then we withdrew straightaway. The handful of properties that we were going to bring on we withdrew and gave them to an associate that works in WA, and that is it.”
The Department of Commerce said that Asset HQ lodged an application for a real estate agent’s licence in August 2013 but it was withdrawn by the company before being granted.
The court heard that between June 2013 and September 2013, the company advertised online properties available for rent in the Perth suburbs of Singleton, Carlisle, Landsdale and Butler as well as the nearby city of Rockingham.
The company then managed a number of those properties between July 2013 and January 2014, according to the Department of Commerce.
Asset HQ also failed to lodge two bonds of $1,500 each from two of the properties as required by the Residential Tenancies Act, the Department of Commerce said.
Asset HQ was fined $7,000 for operating in WA without a licence, and $1,000 on each of the two charges of failing to lodge bonds. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $1,123.
Magistrate Hall said the company’s conduct was made worse by the fact that it was aware of the obligations but continued to conduct its business without a licence.
Consumer Protection Commissioner Anne Driscoll said agents trading on a national basis must be licensed in each jurisdiction in which they operate.
“Operating in WA without a licence is a serious offence, so national businesses must ensure they have the necessary licences and registrations in place before they advertise their services and conduct business here,” Ms Driscoll said.
She said real estate and tenancy laws can vary from state to state, so PMs and agents need to be wary when operating across state and territory borders.
The Asset HQ website promotes its ability to service landlords anywhere in Australia.
“Our unique model allows our team of property managers to manage investors’ properties anywhere within Australia,” it said.
According to financial regulator ASIC, H and Z Group, trading as Asset HQ Property Management Specialists, was set up in 2011 and a strike-off action is in progress.
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