The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) has called on the state government to introduce more secure documentation methods, after a recent fraud scam rocked the industry.
Last month, a Perth man discovered that his Karrinyup property was sold without his knowledge or consent, due to a fake certificate of title being registered with Landgate – WA’s lands office.
REIWA chief executive Anne Arnold said the scam had conned several people and organisations including the owner, the real estate agency, the settlement agent and Landgate, which ultimately registered the title transfer to the new owner.
“This has been a ‘perfect storm’ of events by a very sophisticated outfit which seemed to have a great deal of knowledge about this owner, his property, his overseas movements, and the legal process in WA for selling homes,” Mrs Arnold said.
“The Certificate of Title is a tradable commodity, just like cash, so it’s probably time for Landgate to look at more sophisticated security measures on the actual document, such as a microchip as we have on our passports,” she said.
Under the existing property laws, agents are required to search the title at the time of listing a property, but the bona fides of the seller are not required to be checked. In most cases, agents are dealing with clients that they know so it’s not an issue.
However, Mrs Arnold said that REIWA would be working closely with the Real Estate and Business Agents Supervisory Board to review current protocols.
Mrs Arnold said as agents were increasingly selling properties online, there is little or no face-to-face interaction with sellers.
“While these methods are very convenient for interstate and overseas buyers and sellers, it is now more important that everyone involved in the transaction takes steps to authenticate the process and, in particular, the seller’s ownership of the property,” she said.