'Sloppy' agent sells wrong house

An Auckland real estate agent has been found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct after ‘‘sloppy’’ and ‘‘unprofessional’’ behaviour led to the wrong house being sold.

Ram Vinodh from Don Ha Real Estate faced two charges of reckless or wilful conduct before the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal last year for allegedly providing false information about the address, current valuation and listing price of a property for sale.

Those charges were dismissed and the tribunal instead found Vinodh guilty of the less serious charge of unsatisfactory conduct related to the sale of a house.

Vinodh sold first-time home buyer Michael Hawes number 10 Andover Way, Manukau, in 2010 for $435,000 after taking him through three property inspections at number 12 .

So far so good, but the problem was the house, despite having a letterbox with the number 12 and ‘‘12’’ screwed into the fence, was in fact legally number 10.

This confusion carried through to the sale and purchase agreement which Vinodh said mistakenly contained the address of 12 Andover Way, but the legal description of number 10.

The discrepancy in address was finally picked up by new homeowner Hawes after he received a LIM report for number 12 which showed the owners of number 12 were not the same as those on the sale and purchase agreement he signed.

Hawes complained to the tribunal about the sale and specifically that he had been given the wrong information by Vinodh about the address, current valuation and listing price of the property.

He alleged the valuation Vinodh gave him was the $450,000 valuation of 12 Andover Way, not the $420,000 valuation of number 10.

This meant his purchase price of $435,000 was $15,000 above the valuation rather than $15,000 below valuation.

Buying a property below valuation was a priority in any purchase, he said.

Hawes also alleged after the purchase he saw the property listed for $459,000 which was $20,000 less than Vinodh had told him would be the listing price.

Despite these issues Hawes settled the purchase.

Vinodh denied these claims and said the only incorrect information Hawes was given was the street address number on the sale and purchase agreement.

The tribunal found it was ‘‘undeniable’’ Vinodh had put the wrong address for the property on the sale and purchase agreement and his conduct was sloppy and unprofessional.

It found Hawes ‘‘clearly’’ thought he was purchasing number 12, but he had been happy to proceed with the purchase of 10 Andover Way until he discovered the property’s valuation.

The tribunal did not find Vinodh’s conduct was wilful or reckless and was unable to reach a conclusion as to whether Vinodh gave incorrect information about the valuation.

It said it didn’t find Hawes made it ‘‘very clear’’ to Vinodh he only wanted to make offers on properties that were below valuation. But it said Vinodh had an obligation to deliver an appropriate level of service and in this case he fell short of the standard a reasonable member of the public would be entitled to and a charge of unsatisfactory conduct was proven.

The tribunal also ‘‘note that our concern is also as to Mr Vinodh’s competence in English as a real estate agent in Auckland’’. It suggested he complete an English language test.

Vinodh wouldn’t comment on the tribunal’s findings and referred media to Don Ha real Estate. He has been invited to submit to the tribunal on the ‘‘appropriate penalty’’.