Agent suspended over false mortgage docs

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 10:22 21/05/2013

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An investigation into a fraudulent mortgage scheme in South Auckland has uncovered misconduct by a real estate agent, resulting in a nine-month suspension and $1000 in fines.

Joanne Picknell's licence was suspended last week after the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found her guilty of misconduct under the Real Estate Agents Act.

The tribunal said Picknell left blank sale and purchase agreements stamped with her J P Realty details with an unlicensed person, and failed to notify the Real Estate Agents Authority when she became aware an unlicensed person was practising real estate agency work.

During an investigation into a 2011 mortgage fraud, BNZ discovered Picknell provided Vicky Letele with blank agreements used to support finance applications with her agency's stamp on them.

BNZ alerted the authority and the complaints assessment committee lodged a complaint with the Real Estate Agents Authority in July 2011.

Picknell, who worked as a part-time J P Realty agent in South Auckland, admitted to providing the stamped agreements to an unlicensed person.

However, she said it was not misconduct as the documents were readily available to the public.

The Real Estate Agents Act (Professional Conduct and Client Care Rules) states no agency agreement may be left with any person without all material particulars inserted, or attached to, the document.

The investigation found blank agreements were used in the sales of at least five properties.

Letele had since been charged with practising as an unlicensed real estate agent.

After discovering how the blank agreements had been used Picknell admitted to invoicing Letele for $565 of consultancy fees.

At the tribunal penalty decision hearing, Picknell's lawyer Grant Collecutt said that while Picknell had been found guilty of misconduct she should not be penalised as the behaviour was out of character and there was no risk of repeat offence.

However the Real Estate Agents Authority told the tribunal the misconduct was serious, and Picknell did not promote and protect the interests of consumers. Therefore a lengthy suspension was appropriate.

Editor's note: Vicki Ravana Letele referenced in the above article is not connected to the lawyer Victoria or Vicki Letele working in South Auckland.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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