The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has suspended the estate agent’s licence of Gayle Stewart until January 2015.
Ms Stewart was Officer in Effective Control (OIEC) of 11th Empire Pty Ltd, which traded as LJ Hooker Langwarrin from mid 2012 until mid February 2014.
Consumer Affairs Victoria had suspended Ms Stewart and 11th Empire’s licences in July 2013, filing VCAT proceedings soon afterwards; the tribunal further suspended Ms Stewart’s licence for nine months from 16 April 2014, bringing the total suspension to 18 months.
The company went into liquidation after Consumer Affairs Victoria suspended it and Ms Stewart’s licences.
As well as suspending her licence, the tribunal reprimanded Ms Stewart for failing to control the estate agency.
The tribunal found that Ms Stewart had failed to:
- properly control and supervise the estate agency business for which she was responsible
- establish procedures to ensure the business was conducted in accordance with the law and good agency practice
- monitor the business to ensure it complied with those procedures.
VCAT found Ms Stewart had continued as the agency’s OIEC in circumstances when she was not actually in effective control.
She failed to make proper enquiries when co-signing cheques of more than $100,000 from the agency’s general account, when she knew the money was being paid to someone whose honesty she doubted.
Ms Stewart also signed the cheques after money was incorrectly paid into the general account instead of the trust account. She was not found to have known this at the time but, as OIEC of a failing business with large sums paid into the general account, the tribunal found she should have conducted further enquiries.
VCAT noted that the OIEC’s role was essential to protecting the public - an OIEC should resign if not in effective control, which could happen even if the OIEC was acting honestly.
You can check a licencee's current status via our Search public registers page.