‘Seriously wrongful’: Noosa agency pays for staff’s conduct
A junior agent wrongfully told prospective guests the holiday house they had booked was no longer available, a tribunal has found.
The conduct has been labelled as "seriously wrongful" and has cost the company, Noosa Resort Management, and its shareholders Peter Butt and Jennifer Carr a total of $10,000 in fines.
Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Paul Kanowiski who presided over the matter said the amount was too low to deter from similar conducts.
But he said the publication of the decision would deter.
"The public nature of disciplinary proceedings, with the tribunal's reasons published on the internet, would have a strong deterrent effect," he said.
NRM operates out of Hasting St-based Richardson and Wrench Real Estate Agents, a highly-regarded agency with 27 years' experience in the industry.
The junior agent told four prospective guests that the house they had booked was no longer available after the property owners, Jebral Nominees, gave notice they were terminating the appointment of NRM in 2015.
The employee offered an NRM-managed property to those customers instead.
Two of the guests cancelled their bookings and had their deposit refunded.
The other two guests booked the new property and NRM transferred the deposit to those new bookings.
The Office of Fair Trading argued the wrong information given by the employee put Jebral Nominees "at risk of financial loss because it may or may not have been able to find replacement tenants".
Mr Kanowiski said the employee's actions were "seriously wrongful".
"The house was available and the bookings could have been taken over by the new letting agent," he said.
"An owner properly relies on an agent to act in the owner's interests, as the principal, at all times during an appointment."
Mr Kanowiski said the conduct was an isolated case and the shareholders did not know about or encourage the actions of the employee at the time.
And he said the conduct was not replicated by any of the other 15 staff.
But he said the company and its shareholders were responsible for the actions of employees.
"It bears responsibility for failing to have more rigorous systems in place to try to prevent such wrongdoings," he said.
In handing down his decision last month, Mr Kanowiski fined NRM $5000, and Mr Butt and Ms Carr $2500 each.
He also reprimanded the agency, saying its accounting system should've been set up to inform owners what was done with deposits for their property.
However, the respondents believed their accounting system was sufficient and have filed for leave to appeal the accounting contravention.
NRM has declined to comment while the appeal proceedings are ongoing.