PHOTO: Real estate agent. FILE
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal convened in Rotorua to address a case involving a realtor, who remains anonymous, accused of misconduct for failing to disclose numerous break-ins at a property she had both resided in and helped sell. The tribunal aimed to determine if the realtor intentionally omitted this crucial information from the buyers, a family who discovered the property’s burglary history shortly after moving in.
Safety was a paramount concern for the purchasing family, particularly due to their disabled adult son, who spent most of his time at home. Their fears materialized when their new residence was burglarized shortly after they settled in, and it was only then that they became aware of the previous break-ins from a glazier who came to repair the windows.
The wife of the purchasing family, whose identity is also protected, testified at the tribunal, recalling how she explicitly asked the realtor about the safety of the house during their interactions. According to her testimony, the realtor assured her that both the property and the surrounding area were secure. The wife emphasized that had the realtor not provided this reassurance, they would not have proceeded with the purchase.
The wife described the distress of coming home to find her husband and son traumatized by the break-in and the resulting damage. It was through the glazier’s visit that they discovered multiple previous incidents requiring window repairs. Frustrated by the lack of disclosure, the family filed a complaint with the Real Estate Authority, which subsequently escalated the matter to the tribunal.
During cross-examination, the wife emphasized that she did not harbor personal animosity towards the realtor and sought only to convey the importance of honest and thorough communication when answering questions. She stressed that if someone specifically inquired about safety, there must be a significant reason behind their concern.
The Real Estate Authority provided guidance to realtors on disclosing sensitive information, including incidents such as unnatural deaths or violent crimes that occurred at a property. However, the realtor disputed the couple’s testimony, asserting that they had solely inquired about the safety of the area, not the property itself. She claimed that safety was not a topic that came to her mind during their conversation.
The realtor denied deliberately misleading the buyers, maintaining that if they had explicitly asked about crime or safety, she would have disclosed the prior burglaries. The woman from the purchasing family commented that the burglaries had not negatively affected them, stating that the police considered the culprits as nuisances and were aware of their identities. She asserted that break-ins happen everywhere and did not alter their opinion of the area or their new home.
Elena Mok, the counsel representing the standards committee prosecuting the realtor, argued that the couple had been intentionally misled. Mok emphasized that the buyers specifically inquired about safety and were assured that everything was fine, only to experience a severe incident shortly after. She contended that the realtor’s decision to withhold information was to prevent the buyers from being deterred from purchasing her own property.
In defense of the realtor, John Waymouth, her lawyer, contended that his client did not intentionally mislead the buyers, suggesting that the previous burglaries simply slipped her mind. Waymouth attributed it to an unintentional lapse of memory, arguing that it was not a deliberate or significant omission.
The tribunal will release its written findings at a later date, determining whether the realtor’s actions constituted misconduct by concealing the property’s history of burglaries from the buyers.