A Queensland property manager has pleaded guilty to misusing trust money after the regulator was alerted by aggrieved clients.
Fiona Dickson, Director of SDH Realty in Springwood, pleaded guilty to 46 charges of wrongful conversion of trust monies, according to the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.
Ms Dickson was disqualified from holding a real estate agent licence for seven years. She was also ordered to pay $22,200 to 46 affected consumers and to perform 100 hours of community service, according to the regulator.
Fair Trading said it began investigating Ms Dickson in September 2013, after receiving six complaints from her clients alleging a failure to pay rent to property owners and rental bond monies to the Residential Tenancies Authority.
The Beenleigh Magistrates Court heard that Ms Dickson misappropriated $22,600 of rent and bond monies received from tenants in the SDH Realty trust account between May and August 2013.
“Ms Dickson chose which owners she would pay and which [ones] she wouldn't when performing end-of-month trust account disbursements,” the regulator said.
“Ms Dickson admitted that money was used to pay for both business and personal debts, including car finance payments.”
Fair Trading executive director Brian Bauer said property managers had a duty of care to clients.
“The property industry is regulated to protect consumers, who rightly expect a high level of professionalism,” he said.
“Individuals and corporations are obliged to run a trust account in accordance with the law and if they don’t, consumers shouldn't hesitate to contact the OFT for help.”
According to Mr Bauer, any abuse of trust by property agents is taken very seriously by Fair Trading and looked upon gravely by the courts.