The District Court of South Australia has ordered a multitude of sanctions against one agent for professional misconduct.
Robert Stephens, from the Clare office of Elders Real Estate, was accused by the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs of acting improperly as a sales representative by selling a property at Snowtown to a company whose sole director was one of his co-workers and by brokering the sale of a Clare property to another colleague.
Mr Stephens agreed that his colleague was set to receive a portion of his commission should the property be sold, giving $1,000 of a commission worth just over $5,000 to the new property owner in cash following the sale.
Mr Stephens did not advise the vendor of the Clare property of this payment and failed to secure written authority to sell the property.
The commissioner argued that the conduct of Mr Stephens could undermine public confidence in the real estate industry.
The presiding judge of the case, Judge Joanne Tracey, fined Mr Stephens $5,000 and said that he neglected his professional duties in both cases.
“It is my view that the defendant’s conduct, involving a failure to act in the interest of the vendors and purchasers, is in each case a serious neglect of his duties,” Judge Tracey said in her decision.
Mr Stephens was ordered to repay the vendor of the Clare property $5,863 and has been prohibited from being a nominated manager and supervisor or director of a corporate agent for a minimum of six months.
Mr Stephens has also been ordered to attend a training course that will cover ethics and identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest.
Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Dini Soulio said that the sanctions reflected the seriousness of the conduct and should serve as a reminder to the industry.
“Real estate agents have a responsibility to both their business and their clients to behave in an ethical manner. This includes appropriate disclosure of any conflicts of interest,” the commissioner said.
“I would hope these sanctions serve as a warning to others in the sector to ensure they fully understand their obligations, and act responsibly.”