Consumer Affairs Victoria is taking action against an estate agent we allege failed her responsibilities to act fairly and honestly, conducted herself in a way detrimental to the industry and failed to have her trust accounts audited for a decade.
Saowanee Howell, 61, of Seymour, will appear in disciplinary proceedings at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after we allege she breached the requirements of an agent under the Estate Agents Act 1980 and related regulations.
We allege Ms Howell:
- failed to cause her trust accounts to be audited annually for the financial years from 2012 to 2021
- failed to at all times act fairly and honestly and to the best of her knowledge and ability in performing her functions as an agent, and
- engaged in conduct that was unprofessional or detrimental to the reputation or interests of her industry.
Trust account obligations, including obtaining an annual audit, are critical consumer protection measures. They ensure client money is safe when entrusted to an agent as part of a sale or renting transaction. Agents who don’t have their accounts audited or fail to lodge a copy of the report may also face penalties of up to almost $20,000.
In July 2018, the Business Licensing Authority imposed conditions on Ms Howell’s estate agent’s licence, prohibiting her from receiving or otherwise dealing in any trust money as an estate agent, and from operating or being a signatory to any estate agent trust account.
Consumer Affairs Victoria will advise VCAT that it considers Ms Howell is not a fit and proper person to hold an estate agent’s licence.
Ms Howell is scheduled to appear at VCAT for a directions hearing on 27 June.