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Consumer & Business Advice
Media releases
29 May 2018

The District Court has ordered a multitude of sanctions against a South Australian real estate agent for professional misconduct.

The Commissioner for Consumer Affairs alleged that Robert Stephens acted improperly as a sales representative while working at the Clare office of Elders Real Estate by selling a property at Snowtown to a company whose sole director was one of his co-workers and by brokering the sale of a Clare property to another colleague.

In the second instance, Stephens agreed that his colleague was set to receive a proportion of his commission, should the property be sold – giving $1,000 of a commission worth just over $5,000 to the new property owner in cash following the sale.

Stephens did not advise the vendor of the Clare property of this payment and failed to secure written authority to sell the property.

In Court, the Commissioner argued Stephens’ conduct was relatively serious, given the potential to undermine public confidence both in that specific business as well as the broader real estate industry.

Judge Joanne Tracey acknowledged Stephens’ reputation as an agent with 20 years’ experience in the sector, fining him $5,000.

“It is my view that the defendant’s conduct, involving a failure to act in the interest of the vendors and purchasers, is in each case, a serious neglect of his duties,” she said in her decision.

In addition, Stephens was ordered to repay $5,863 to the vendor of the Clare property, representing his commission for the sale.

Stephens was also ordered to attend an appropriate training course involving ethics and identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest.

Judge Tracey prohibited Stephens from being a nominated manager and supervisor or a director of a corporate agent for at least six months.

Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Dini Soulio said the sanctions reflected the serious nature of the conduct, and should serve as a strong reminder for real estate agents and sales representatives.

“Real estate agents have a responsibility to both their business and their clients to behave in an ethical manner – this includes appropriate disclosure of any conflicts of interest,” he said.

“I would hope these sanctions serve as a warning to others in the sector to ensure they fully understand their obligations, and act responsibly.”