Latitude Real Estate Pty Ltd and James Robert Hand - Enforceable undertaking

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Date
19 July 2016
Category
Enforceable undertakings

The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria has accepted undertakings from Latitude Real Estate Pty Ltd ACN 152 535 709 and its director and former officer in effective control, who failed to meet their trust account obligations.

Our investigations followed a complaint about the company, alleging discrepancies between bond payments made by tenants and amounts lodged by the company with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA), for four properties.

We found that bond money paid to the company by tenants, and by the company to the RTBA on behalf of tenants, was not properly recorded in the company’s rental trust account.

Latitude Real Estate inadvertently made overpayments of rent to landlords totalling $372,348, and underpayments of rent to landlords totalling $352,470.

As a result, there was a deficiency of $19,879 in the company’s rental trust account in November 2015.

Latitude Real Estate acknowledged that it had contravened the Estate Agents Act 1980 and the Regulations by failing to keep full and accurate accounting records of trust money received.

The company’s insurers have started making rectification payments to reconcile these discrepancies.

James Robert Hand, who was at all relevant times the Officer in Effective Control was responsible for reviewing and approving all monthly reconciliations of the company’s trust accounts, offered an undertaking to the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria that he will complete further trust accounting, ethical and risk management professional training.

Latitude Real Estate offered an undertaking to implement and maintain a compliance program to ensure that it keeps full and accurate accounting records, in accordance with the Act and Regulations, and will only permit suitably qualified staff to manage and maintain its accounts and records.

The company must ensure that all money owed to landlords as a result of errors in its trust accounting is paid within six months of the commencement date of the undertaking. It must also pay $3000 to the Victorian Property Fund within six weeks.

The company also gave an undertaking to ensure that all directors, employees and agents who handle trust money, complete or repeat further professional trust accounting, ethical and risk management training.

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