A new NSW Fair Trading crackdown has led to eight real estate agent licence cancellations, nine licence disqualifications, and almost $175,000 in penalties.
According to NSW Fair Trading’s executive director of investigations and enforcement, Valerie Griswold, the operation targeted real estate agents who failed to lodge their trust account audits for 2019-20.
She said: “Fair Trading takes this incredibly seriously, and these 20 agents were each fined sums of up to $11,000, eight had their licences cancelled, and nine are currently disqualified from being involved in the direction, management or conduct of the business of a licensee until the outstanding trust account audits are returned.”
All in all, $173,500 in penalties were handed down.
Regulatory action is still reportedly being considered against a further 35 real estate agents who returned their trust account audits late.
“Trust accounts consist of funds belonging 100 per cent to consumers so it’s critical the agents managing them stick to the rules.”
A failure to lodge an audit is “a standalone offence”, Ms Griswold advised, before calling it “a major red flag” – suggesting it could indicate an agent has something to hide.
Trust account fraud is the number one offence real estate agents are prosecuted for in NSW, the executive director said.
“In the past, we’ve seen real estate agents using trust account funds for gambling, alcohol and drugs – in some cases spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Ms Griswold warned: “We’re not talking about small amounts here – these 20 agents alone held a combined total of $2.95 million in their trust accounts, and it is crucial this money is being handled correctly at all times.”
Fair Trading’s Consumer, Building and Property Unit undertook the compliance operation in conjunction with Fair Trading’s Disciplinary Action Unit to address the non-compliance.
The NSW government body has released a list of the 20 agents subject to disciplinary action:
- Deakin Industrial Realty in Sydney
- Future Partners Austral at Austral
- John Dunnachie at Baulkham Hills
- Novus Investment Group in Sydney
- Oceanwide Property Group in Sydney
- Palomaohana trading as James Estates Property Agents at Balmain
- The IBW Empire at Rozelle
- The Success Property Group at Burwood
- Amazing Grace Australia at West Ryde
- Amazing T Investments as Topland Property at Castle Hill
- Australian Prime Realty at Dover Heights
- Auston Grand Realty Group at Castlereagh
- Australian Executive Apartments at Coogee
- CVG Home Inn at Sydney
- Bondi Beach Rentals at Bondi Beach
- Healy Enterprises at The Entrance
- IT Property Agents at Caringbah
- Key Chain Real Estate at Hurstville
- [email protected] at Dooralong
- ANG (Aust) at Minto
Fair Trading has flagged that three of the real estate agents, Deakin Industrial Realty, Novus Investment Group, and The IBW Empire, have requested an internal review of the disciplinary decision issued to them to date.
The option is still available to the remainder.
There are currently no allegations that any of the agents named above have engaged in fraud, Fair Trading clarified.