Springfield Lakes estate agency closes after $100k ripoff
Springfield Lakes' Exposure Real Estate has closed after its director pleaded guilty in the Ipswich Magistrates Court to misusing $100,000 in trust account money.
It comes as the Office of Fair Trading revealed 1139 people were warned and 20 were taken to court last financial year for misusing trust money.
But the REIQ says such cases among its members are extremely rare and it regularly trains estate agents in how to comply with laws governing trust accounts.
REIQ chief executive Antonia Mercorella said Exposure Real Estate's principal licensee and sole director, Kevin Roy Tomlinson, was not an REIQ member.
The court heard Mr Tomlinson, who was fined $2500 and was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to wrongfully transferring money from a rental trust account to his company's expense account over a seven-month period, eventually repaid all the trust money.
Ms Mercorella said there was an indemnity fund in Queensland to reimburse clients and customers whose funds were wrongly taken from solicitors' and real estate agents' trust accounts.
She said the real estate industry was very well regulated and closely monitored by the Office of Fair Trading, while the REIQ also conducted regular training.
"This is not a widespread issue. Trust accounts are very, very strictly regulated in Queensland,'' she said.
"There are auditing requirements. It's not impossible to commit trust account breaches, but there are lots of processes in place that successfully safeguard against misuse.
"This is one of the key Office of Fair Trading priorities. They devote extensive resources to looking into trust accounts.''
Ms Mercorella said victims could make an application for reimbursement of misappropriated funds, although there was a maximum limit that could be claimed.
The OFT's 2019-2020 annual report revealed 1139 people, mostly estate agents, were warned for breaches of the Agents Financial Administration Act 2014.
A further 255 were issued with infringement notices, two were taken to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) and 20 were taken to court.
Another 69 people, including estate agents, auctioneers, live-in residential property managers and residential letting agents, were warned under the Property Occupations Act 2014.
A further 65 were hit with infringement notices, 85 received administrative disciplinary action, 11 were taken to QCAT and eight were taken to court.
Originally published as Springfield Lakes estate agency closes after $100k ripoff