Estate agent fined for harassing seller
An Auckland real estate agent has been fined and her licence suspended after she sold a car park she didn't own and pressured a vineyard owner to sell.
Janine Wallace was fined $750 and her licence suspended for two years after earlier being found guilty of three charges of misconduct by the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.
The offending involved selling a Princes Wharf car park she claimed she owned, to British-born Michael Burt and his wife Jilly. She also sold the couple two Princes Wharf apartments while unlicensed.
The Burts, who were friends with Wallace, lost the $25,000 deposit they paid for the car park and spent at least $65,000 in litigation with Wallace.
She was found guilty of misconduct for failing to tell the Burts that the title of the car park was under dispute, and for seeking commission on the sale of the apartments when unlicensed.
The Burts, who now live in Cyprus, said in a statement that Wallace had caused them "considerable financial loss, and at times, extreme personal sadness and stress, over some five years".
"She has single-handedly tarnished forever our feelings about New Zealand, and its business community and ethical standpoint."
Wallace was also charged with putting undue pressure on David Hoskins and his wife Mary, the vendors of a vineyard and winery and restaurant business.
She was "seriously incompetent or negligent" in entering a written contract with the vendors, the tribunal found.
The couple said they were "harassed" by Wallace over her pursuit of commission at a time when Mary was unwell.
"Her continual pursuit of a commission amounted to harassment. Coming as this did at the time as Mary's illness, Mary's recovery was made that much more difficult."
A sale and purchase agreement were put before the couple at 10.45pm while they were in bed. Wallace said the Chinese buyer would "go down the road" and buy elsewhere if they didn't sign, the tribunal earlier heard.
When the couple told Wallace their lawyer told them not to sign while he drew up a new document, she said not to worry as the lawyer did not understand the law around overseas investment.
Wallace defended her actions by telling the tribunal there was only a short window available to retain the buyer.
Wallace has not operated as an agent since May, and has spent most of her time overseas, the tribunal said.
"We observed that she is very distressed by these charges having been proved and does not seem to accept guilt.
"Indeed she maintains that she always acted in good faith."
Wallace was fined $750. The fine was lower than the $5000 threshold due to Wallace's financial position.