Life ban and fine for real estate sales rep over fake home purchase offers (Gayla Currie / Century 21 Max Comben)
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A real estate sales representative has been permanently disqualified from ever holding a certificate of registration in WA and fined $1,500 by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) after fabricating multiple purchase offers on four Perth properties.
Gayla Currie, who worked for Century 21 Max Comben real estate agency in Morley, was also ordered to pay costs of $1,200 in SAT orders published on 26 October 2017.
On 23 August 2017, Ms Currie’s employer Sakar Pty Ltd, trading as Century 21 Max Comben, was fined $2,000 and sales supervisor Maxwell Comben was fined $3,000 by the SAT for breaching the Real Estate and Business Agents Act by failing to exercise due care, skill and diligence and continuing to employ a sales representative in the time period that the sales representative’s certificate of registration had expired and was therefore no longer valid. The agency and Mr Comben were reprimanded and ordered to also pay costs of $1,200.
Ms Currie began working for the agency as a sales representative in February 2015 and was supervised by Mr Comben. Ms Currie held a sales representative certificate from October 2012 to October 2015 but failed to renew her certificate of registration until February 2016. She continued her sales activities with the agency between October 2015 and February 2016, despite not holding a certificate of registration.
Ms Currie handled the sale of four properties for the agency, during which she presented:
- Sixteen fake contracts of offer and acceptance to the owner of a Westminster property between May 2015 and February 2016;
- Two fake contracts of offer and acceptance to the owner of a Balcatta property in October 2015 and January 2016;
- Three fake contracts of offer and acceptance to the owner of a Morley property between December 2015 and March 2016; and
- One fake contract of offer and acceptance to the owners of a Stirling property in February 2016.
The Balcatta owner had allowed a tenant to break a lease and the Stirling owners had repaired window awnings believing the offers on their properties were genuine.
As her supervisor, Mr Comben had failed to notice that:
- The signatures on the offers were in Ms Currie’s handwriting;
- Ms Currie had not checked whether the buyers were in a financial position to purchase the properties;
- Finance letters from banks were either forged, not finance approvals or were never received;
- Letters to alleged buyers were returned to sender or received no response;
- Phone numbers on sales information sheets were not the alleged buyers’ real phone numbers;
- No deposits were ever received; and
- No sales were settled and didn’t query why, despite numerous offers and counter-offers supposedly being made.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said Ms Currie’s misconduct has resulted in the ultimate penalty.
“A life ban is a rare but appropriate penalty for someone working in the real estate industry in WA who engages in serious deceptive conduct over a nine month period, resulting in clients suffering financial losses and lost opportunities to sell their properties to real buyers,” Mr Hillyard said.
“As supervisor, Mr Comben has the responsibility to ensure his staff members are acting in accordance with the law.
“For this deception to occur unnoticed over such a long period of time shows a serious lack of proper supervision on Mr Comben’s part and, as a result, property owners who put their trust in the agency have endured great inconvenience and financial disadvantage.
“If you are a supervisor of staff or the licensee of a real estate agency, it is your duty to carry out proper and regular checks to make sure that all staff members are complying with every aspect of the law and are not engaging in dishonest conduct.”
More information on the obligations of real estate agents and sales representatives is available on the Consumer Protection website: www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au or enquiries can be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / email@example.com
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