Retirees v real estate agents: Wellington house sale goes to tribunal
A photograph was partly at the centre of a dispute over a Wellington property that was sold.
Two Johnsonville real estate agents listed but did not sell a house there.
They sought $30,000 from retirees but the parties’ legal battle wasn’t so much about that as a photograph taken from a roadside.
Catherine and Craig Freear of Real Estate Now wanted the money from David and Janet Lammas whose Churton Park property the agents had listed but subsequently failed to sell.
The couple appointed another agency which did sell the Furlong Cres home but that agency had first been introduced to the property by the Freears, who accordingly claimed a commission.
The Freears initially claimed the commission when Craig Freear hand-delivered a letter of demand at the couple’s front door to David Lammas, seeking the $30,000.
However, the agency was “apparently no longer pursuing the Lammas [couple] for the commission,” according to a ruling from the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.
The tribunal heard the case after the Lammas couple complained to the Real Estate Authority that the agents failed to provide a list of prospective purchasers when their agency ended which meant they had no idea about being potentially liable for the commission.
At the initial case before an authority complaints assessment committee, the agents were each censured and fined $3000 for how they acted over the sale.
But the retired couple appealed to the tribunal in a case which partly centred on a complaint they made about photography: using an iPad, Catherine Freear had photographed Craig Freear hand-delivering the letter demanding for the $30,000 commission to David Lammas at his home.
The Lammas couple were unhappy about those two issues and cited privacy laws in their appeal to the tribunal over the photograph and also that the agents had failed to give the couple a list of prospective purchasers who – if they subsequently bought the property – could mean a double commission because the Freears had introduced those buyers to the property when they had the sole agency.
But the agents rejected the couple’s complaints and said there was no intentional breach of privacy when the photograph was taken in a public space.
The agents also cross-appealed to the tribunal against the upholding of breaches of the law. The Freears thought they had a valid commission claim and the photograph was taken to assist them in the pursuit of that claim, the tribunal heard.
The couple’s lawyer Dahl Calder told the tribunal that Craig Freear was “physically imposing. The Lammases are both retired superannuants. Mr Freear’s arrival unannounced at their front door to serve a letter of demand, with Ms Freear sitting in a vehicle pointing an iPad at him, was intimidatory and bullying behaviour. A proper and courteous licensee would at the very least have called them in advance. Mr Freear has been in the industry for 31 years and ought to have known better”, the tribunal said citing Dahl’s submissions.
The tribunal said the agents’ claim for the commission was not relevant to the case.
“At the relevant time and throughout this complaint, until the appeal to the tribunal, the Freears were asserting their entitlement to a commission from the Lammases. There are or were court proceedings concerning this. We do not know the details. Nor is it relevant whether the agency is legally entitled to a commission from the Lammases,” said the tribunal decision out last month.
The tribunal has now dismissed the Lammas couple’s complaint about the photography but partially allowed the appeal by the Freears.
The committee’s decision to find the agents guilty of unsatisfactory conduct was reversed.
The tribunal upheld the committee’s decision to censure both the agents but it said they only had to pay $500 to the authority instead of $3000.
David Lammas told the Herald today he didn’t want to comment on the case at this point. Craig Freear said the same.
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