Estate agent’s licence cancelled for trust account failures – enforcement outcome

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7 November 2022
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A Caroline Springs estate agent who repeatedly failed his responsibilities in managing his trust account, has lost his licence and been disqualified from working as an estate agent for 18 months. 

Tsun Ngai Lee, 63, of Caroline Springs, traded as Ably Realtor Worldwide Agency. Conditions were imposed on Mr Lee’s estate agent’s licence in 2019 after he failed to comply with his auditing and trust account record-keeping obligations. The conditions banned him from operating his trust account and handling trust money until he fulfilled specific requirements – which he failed to do.  

Mr Lee also failed to have his trust account audited within three months after the financial year ending 2019 as required under the Estate Agents Act 1980

Trust accounts hold clients’ funds – including sales deposits, rent, and advertising fees. Consumer Affairs Victoria is targeting the way agents manage their trust accounts as a priority because these responsibilities are critical to protecting consumers.  

In legal actions currently underway in VCAT and the courts, several agents are facing the prospect of losing their licences and one, due to appear at the Melbourne County Court, a potential jail sentence.  

Consumer Affairs Victoria Director Nicole Rich said managing trust accounts was a core professional obligation for estate agents. 

‘Most estate agents take their trust account obligations seriously but unfortunately a small number of agents are still failing to lodge audits or treat trust accounts with the careful attention they require.’  

`We will continue to scrutinise the management of trust accounts, identify agents who fail to meet their responsibilities, and pursue them through appropriate enforcement action’, she said.  

In addition to cancelling his licence, VCAT also found that Mr Lee:  

  • failed at all times to act fairly and honestly and to the best of his knowledge and ability as an estate agent.   
  • engaged in conduct detrimental to the reputation or interests of the industry.   
  • is not a fit and proper person to hold a licence.   

Mr Lee’s misconduct was initially identified through Consumer Affairs Victoria’s compliance monitoring and audit program.