NSW Government cracks down on real estate compliance
A specialised operation run by NSW Fair Trading has led to disciplinary action being taken against 20 real estate agents, resulting in the cancellation of eight real estate agent’s licences and $173,500 in penalties for failure to comply with strict rules around trust accounts.
NSW Fair Trading Executive Director of Investigations and Enforcement Valerie Griswold said the operation targeted real estate agents who failed to lodge their trust account audits for 2019/20.
“Trust accounts consist of funds belonging 100 per cent to consumers so it’s critical the agents managing them stick to the rules,” Ms Griswold 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.”
Ms Griswold said failure to lodge an audit is a standalone offence, and a major red flag as it could indicate agents might have something to hide.
“Trust account fraud is the number one offence real estate agents are prosecuted for in NSW. 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 said.
“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.”
The compliance operation was carried out by Fair Trading’s Consumer, Building and Property Unit, which worked swiftly in conjunction with Fair Trading’s Disciplinary Action Unit in addressing non-compliance.
The 20 real estate agents subject to disciplinary action are:
- Deakin Industrial Realty Pty Ltd in Sydney
- Future Partners Austral Pty Ltd at Austral
- John Dunnachie Pty Ltd at Baulkham Hills
- Novus Investment Group Pty Ltd in Sydney
- Oceanwide Property Group Pty Ltd in Sydney
- Palomaohana Pty Ltd trading as James Estates Property Agents at Balmain
- The IBW Empire Pty Ltd at Rozelle
- The Success Property Group Pty Ltd at Burwood
- Amazing Grace Australia Pty Ltd at West Ryde
- Amazing T Investments Pty Ltd as Topland Property Pty Ltd at Castle Hill
- Australian Prime Realty Pty Ltd at Dover Heights
- Auston Grand Realty Group at Castlereagh
- Australian Executive Apartments Pty Ltd at Coogee
- CVG Home Inn Pty Ltd at Sydney
- Bondi Beach Rentals Pty Ltd at Bondi Beach
- Healy Enterprises Pty Limited at The Entrance
- IT Property Agents Pty Ltd at Caringbah
- Key Chain Real Estate Pty Ltd at Hurstville
- IDEAS@WORK Pty Ltd at Dooralong
- ANG (Aust) Pty Ltd at Minto
To date, only three of the real estate agents, Deakin Industrial Realty Pty Ltd, Novus Investment Group Pty Ltd and The IBW Empire Pty Ltd, have requested an internal review of the disciplinary decision issued to them and the option is still available to the remainder.
There are currently no allegations that the 20 real estate agents have engaged in fraud.
Appropriate regulatory action is still being considered against 35 additional real estate agents who returned their trust account audits late.