FAIR TRADING SENDS CLEAR MESSAGE TO REAL ESTATE AGENTS
17 July 2014
NSW Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox has released the results of NSW Fair Trading's recent compliance audit targeting the trust accounts of real estate agents across the State.
Mr Mason-Cox said Fair Trading received 506 qualified audits for the 2012/13 financial year with 51 matters referred for further investigation and 83 warnings issued to agents.
“Five penalty infringements notices have already been issued with a number of follow-up inspections to occur,” he said.
“Eighty-seven audits required on-site inspections and 285 audits required no further action.”
Mr Mason-Cox said an additional 1,702 random audits were undertaken with 170 real estate agents found to be in breach of the law for failing to submit an audit report or having discrepancies in the audit report submitted.
"Further on-site inspections are continuing with a view to taking disciplinary action against agents found to be in breach,” he said.
Mr Mason-Cox said Fair Trading's real estate compliance checks send a clear message to dishonest agents that they will be held to account if they flout the law.
“In the 2013/14 financial year, six real estate agents were convicted of offences involving trust account fraud, with five licensees receiving custodial sentences,” he said.
“Millions of home-owner and landlord dollars go through trust accounts every year.
“Do not be mistaken, to misappropriate this money is fraud and agents can find themselves in prison if they break the law.”
Under the Property Stock and Business Agents Act 2002, licensees who held or received trust money during the financial year must have their trust accounts audited by an auditor.
Fines of $550 for an individual or $1,100 for a corporation apply for failure to have trust account records audited or to submit a qualified audit report to Fair Trading. Offences involving trust account fraud carry custodial sentences of up to 10 years.
Qualified Audit reports that identify a breach of the law or any discrepancy about the trust account, including a failure to keep accurate and up to date records must be flagged with Fair Trading.
Real estate agents are reminded to have their trust accounts records audited for the 2013/14 financial year and to submit any qualified audits to Fair Trading for inspection by 30 September 2014.