A property manager employed by a Mandurah real estate agency has been fined $6,000 and ordered to pay $400 costs by the Mandurah Magistrates Court for taking money from the agency’s trust account for her own purposes.
Kylie Jo-Anne Thomas was convicted on 8 December 2020 of making unauthorised withdrawals from the trust account in breach of the Real Estate and Business Agents Act.
In August and September 2019, Ms Thomas had replaced the bank account details of four clients with those of her own bank account in the agency’s property management computer system. Nine unauthorised transactions over the two month period amounting to $7,186.88 resulted in money that should have gone to property owners being re-directed into Ms Thomas’ personal bank account.
The unauthorised withdrawals were discovered when one of the owners alerted the manager of the agency. The properties involved were in Furnissdale, Ravenswood, Dawesville and Port Kennedy.
Ms Thomas, whose registration expired in July 2019, had made arrangements to pay back the money.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said the illegal actions of Ms Thomas were blatant dishonesty.
“Being a senior staff member at the agency, Ms Thomas was entrusted with access to the agency’s property management system but she exploited her position for her own financial gain by virtually stealing money from property owners,” Ms Lipscombe said.
“Real estate agencies are, by law, required to set up trust accounts so that money that belongs to clients is kept separate from the agency’s operating income and expenses. This is intended to provide protection for both property owners and tenants whose money is being held by the agency on their behalf.
“Withdrawals from client’s accounts need to be dispersed according to the property management agreement, as specified by the Act or as agreed by the parties.
“Regular audits of trust accounts by agency principals and by Consumer Protection officers will quickly bring to light any discrepancies and attempts to defraud the system. If breaches of the law are discovered, criminal prosecution or disciplinary action will quickly follow.”