PHOTO: STOCK FILE. PINTEREST
A real estate agent attempted to kiss a female client inside a car and later had his wife provide a false statement to investigators, falsely claiming he was at home during the incident.
Despite initially offering a fabricated alibi, the man has since admitted to his misconduct and appeared before the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal in Auckland on Monday, where the appropriate penalty for his actions will be determined.
According to the allegations, the man, who currently has interim name suppression, was assisting a woman in her search for a house to purchase in Auckland in June 2022. He actively searched for properties within her budget, even attending a property viewing with her and assisting her in making an offer on a house later that same month.
On the evening following the unsuccessful offer, the man met with his client and, while they were both in her car, he attempted to kiss her.
“This constitutes a deliberate and unwelcome physical advance by a licensed real estate agent,” stated Matthew Mortimer-Wang, counsel for the standards committee prosecuting the man, during the tribunal hearing.
Mortimer-Wang emphasized the distressing and intimidating nature of the situation for the woman, who also has interim name suppression, as she was alone with the man and unable to easily escape. He also highlighted the significant power imbalance between the two, with the woman relying on the agent’s assistance in her house-hunting process.
Mortimer-Wang further pointed out that the man had deceived investigators by providing false information about the incident and involving his wife in a fabricated alibi.
“What real estate licensees cannot do is actively deceive and create false narratives when dealing with committee investigators,” he added.
Mortimer-Wang stressed the need for the public to be able to interact with real estate agents in various settings, including at night or in isolated situations, without fearing unwelcome advances.
“If they lack confidence that members can conduct themselves appropriately, the reputation of the profession will erode over time,” he cautioned.
The realtor has allowed his license to lapse since the incident and has not sought its renewal, making suspension or revocation unavailable as penalties. Therefore, Mortimer-Wang sought a fine and a censure for the realtor’s actions.
The realtor’s attorney, Paul Barrowclough, explained that his client was under significant mental strain at the time, and his behavior was an “aberration.”
“He does not shy away from accepting responsibility for his actions,” Barrowclough acknowledged.
“He acknowledges that his behavior was unwarranted and that the kiss was non-consensual. He also acknowledges the power dynamics between him and [the woman], which put her in a vulnerable position.”
Barrowclough revealed that his client had written a letter of apology to his former client and to the tribunal, expressing deep remorse for his actions.
“It was not a pattern of behavior but rather a one-time occurrence,” Barrowclough concluded.
The tribunal has reserved its decision and will announce its ruling in the coming weeks.