Misleading clients leads to $12,000 fine



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The former manager of the the Port Douglas Queenslander residential complex has been fined by the Office of Fair Trading. Image: Newsport.

A Port Douglas resident letting agent was ordered to pay $12,000 in fines by the Mossman Magistrates Court on 4 December 2019 following an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation which found she made false representations to clients, unit owners and guests.

According to a Queensland Government media statement, Rosemary Knights, who managed The Port Douglas Queenslander residential complex, pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including making false representations about letting, falsely issuing instructions on behalf of the OFT, attempting to recover trust account money expenses without authority and acting as a substitute licensee while another agent was appointed.

No conviction was recorded.

The court heard the OFT began investigating Ms Knights in January 2019 after receiving complaints from unit owners and guests at The Port Douglas Queenslander, as well as local real estate agents.

An investigation revealed Ms Knights had misled consumers who were attempting to book accommodation by stating The Port Douglas Queenslander was fully booked, despite units being available. This advice led to a number of guests being forced to book other accommodation elsewhere, while others of their party stayed at The Port Douglas Queenslander.

Ms Knight’s conduct also left owners out of pocket. When one owner enquired about the availability of his own unit for a holiday, Ms Knights advised that it was let during that period. However, when the owner received his rental statement, he found that it had been empty at that time.

The court also heard that Ms Knights had sent owners two emails making false claims about OFT regulations and instructions.

In sentencing, Magistrate Thomas Braes noted Ms Knights showed no real remorse in her statement to the court considering she occupied a position of utmost trust and had breached her obligations.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said the agent’s long list of inaccuracies and misleading practices were concerning.

“Ms Knight’s behaviour was inappropriate. Agents in the property industry must ensure they are operating in the best interests of consumers and their clients or property owners,” Mr Bauer said.

“The message from the court today should serve as a deterrent to any agent not complying with their legal obligations.”

The Port Douglas Queenslander remains open with 14 apartments now under new management by Seascape Holidays.

A spokesperson from Seascape Holidays said it is business as usual at the Queenslander with the individual apartment owners looking to move forward and try to recoup some of their lost revenue over the Christmas period.

Further information on the obligations of property agents is available from www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

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