A licensed real estate agent has been reprimanded and fined $3,000 over unauthorised withdrawals from a trust account used in the management of a Perth property.
Atul Kapoor, trading as Harcourts Elite Real Estate of Canning Vale, had also received management fees without having a valid appointment to act as a property manager and was ordered to pay costs of $500.
After purchasing another property manager’s rent roll, Mr Kapoor never received a signed agreement from the owners of a Forrestdale property.
From November 2012 to July 2013, Mr Kapoor received property management fees totalling $360, despite not having a properly executed the management agreement.
Furthermore, contrary to the owners’ request, Mr Kapoor withdrew $1,703 from the trust account to pay for maintenance on the property.
Mr Kapoor admitted to breaching the Real Estate and Business Agents Act by accepting property management fees without a valid appointment, failing to act in accordance with owners’ instructions and failing to exercise due skill, care and diligence by paying an invoice from the trust account without first ascertaining that the invoice related to the managed property.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it is a serious offence for a property manager to act in defiance of the owners’ wishes relating to the use of trust account funds.
“Agents are breaching the trust of owners if they ignore instructions and make unauthorised deductions from their trust account,” he said.
“While the funds may be held in a trust account operated by the real estate agent, the funds do not legally belong to the agent and should not be disbursed without the authorisation of property owners. Withdrawals should definitely not be made in defiance of the owners’ instructions, as happened in this case.”