Real estate industry watchdog wins High Court appeal: agent loses licence

 
 
10/08/2016
​The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) has just had its appeal, in a case involving real estate agent Alan Morton-Jones, upheld by the High Court.  In June last year, the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal) found Mr Morton-Jones guilty of four charges of misconduct in relation to short paying a number of clients of his property management business.  They subsequently suspended his licence for 9 months, fined him $2,000 and ordered that he complete various training in their October 2015 penalty decision. 

That penalty has just been quashed by the High Court as a result of an appeal by the REAA, and Mr Morton-Jones’s real estate licence has been cancelled.

“This is a big decision for us” said Kevin Lampen-Smith the REAA’s Chief Executive “not only is a dishonest agent out of the industry for good, which is always a great outcome, but we have also had an important point of law clarified for us.”

 “The High Court stated that “… proven dishonesty will almost invariably result in disqualification whether or not that dishonesty led to criminal proceedings and criminal penalties” this is a big deal for us as it shows how honesty is key to a person’s fitness to hold a real estate licence. This sets the scene for future dishonesty prosecutions in that if dishonesty is proven, then cancellation of that persons licence is a likely outcome” continued Mr Lampen-Smith. “

The REAA submitted in its appeal that the Tribunal failed to correctly identify and apply important principles and that dishonestly should result in licence cancellation in all but rare cases.  It was further submitted that the need for cancellation was given emphasis in this case by Mr Morton-Jones’s complete lack of candour in dealing with the Complaints Assessment Committee and his refusal to meet his obligations and respond to the notice from the REAA under section 85 of the Real Estate Agents Act 2008.  The REAA further submitted that the (Tribunal’s) penalty was plainly wrong because, in essence, it was in conflict with other clear findings made by the Tribunal. The High Court agreed with these submissions and overturned the Tribunal’s licence suspension penalty decision in favour of licence cancellation.

“It is rare that a licence is cancelled for non-real estate agency work” said Mr Lampen-Smith. “It was cancelled in this case because while Mr Morton-Jones was not carrying out real estate agency work, he was a licensed agent and the case involved serious dishonesty in relation to the handling of clients’ money.”

“The Court also noted that the lack of understanding and acceptance of the gravity of the misconduct shown by Mr Morton-Jones also contributed to its penalty decision.”

“Honesty is at the heart of the real estate profession and it is important that anyone who is proven to have behaved dishonestly is no longer able to be a part of the industry. Consumer protection is paramount and this is great decision for the REAA, the industry and New Zealanders” concluded Mr Lampen-Smith.

Further Information


About the Real Estate Agents Authority 

The Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) is the independent government regulatory body for the real estate industry in New Zealand. Our job is to promote a high standard of service and professionalism in the real estate industry and help protect buyers and sellers. We provide information for buyers and sellers, provid​e advice and guidance for agents and deal with complaints about agents' behaviour.

The REAA is a Crown entity, established under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008.
 

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal

The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal is separate to the REAA and is run by the Ministry of Justice.

ENDS

Contact

Ngaire Vanderhoof
media@reaa.govt.nz
(04) 815 8466