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Misuse of real estate trust account money

Buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction many people undertake in their lifetime, and most Victorians put their trust in an estate agent to sell their home. One of many protections for buyers and sellers under the Estate Agents Act 1980 is the requirement for estate agents to keep money they receive on behalf of any other person in a separate trust account.

Failing to handle trust account money appropriately may result in property owners being adversely affected and property purchases being delayed or failing, causing emotional and financial stress for those involved.

During 2016-17, we conducted 810 trust account inspections for compliance with laws and processed over 2,400 trust account audits.

In January 2017, we commenced criminal proceedings against Judy Nguyen, the sole director of JNT Law Investments Pty Ltd (in Liq) ACN 161 495 905 and an employee agent, Joseph Ngo, for alleged breaches of the Estate Agents Act 1980 relating to trust account defalcations of over $2 million. JNT operated LJ Hooker franchises in Glen Waverley, Keysborough, Mount Waverley, Burwood, Doncaster and Box Hill.

We paid claims totalling more than $2 million to property owners or purchasers who suffered loss as a result of these former LJ Hooker franchises. The Victorian Property Fund was established under the Estate Agents Act 1980 to provide protections to consumers who suffer financial loss due to actions of an estate agent.