A property manager employed by a real estate agency in Mandurah, around 70km south of Perth, has been fined $6,000 and ordered to pay $400 in costs by the local magistrate’s court for taking money from the agency’s trust account for her own purposes.
Kylie Jo-Anne Thomas was convicted of making unauthorised withdrawals from the trust account in breach of the Real Estate and Business Agents Act.
According to WA’s Consumer Protection office, in August and September 2019, Thomas had replaced the bank account details of four clients with those of her own bank account in the agency’s property management computer system.
Arrangements made to pay back the missing money
Nine unauthorised transactions over the two-month period amounting to $7,186 resulted in money that should have gone to property owners being re-directed into her personal bank account. The unauthorised withdrawals were discovered when one of the owners alerted the manager of the agency.
Thomas, whose real estate registration expired in July 2019, has made arrangements to pay back the money.
The state’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Penny Lipscombe, said the illegal actions of Thomas were blatant dishonesty.
“Being a senior staff member at the agency, [she] was entrusted with access to the agency’s property management system. But she exploited her position for her own financial gain by virtually stealing money from property owners.
Provides protection for property owners and tenants
“Real estate agencies are, by law, required to set up trust accounts so that money that belongs to clients is kept separate from the agency’s operating income and expenses. This is intended to provide protection for both property owners and tenants whose money is being held by the agency on their behalf,” Lipscombe said
“Withdrawals from client’s accounts need to be dispersed according to the property management agreement, as specified by the Act or as agreed by the parties.”
Lipscombe said regular audits of trust accounts by agency principals and by Consumer Protection officers would quickly bring to light any discrepancies and attempts to defraud the system. Where breaches of the law were discovered, criminal prosecution or disciplinary action would follow.