Victorian government steps in to protect agent commissions from non-compliant contracts

Victorian government steps in to protect agent commissions from non-compliant contracts
Victorian government steps in to protect agent commissions from non-compliant contracts

The Victorian government has stepped in to protect real estate agent commission payments after agents were using non-compliant contracts sold by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) that had been approved by Consumer Affairs Victoria.

The faulty contracts were Exclusive Sales Agreement (ESA), legally binding documents that give an agent the right to sell a vendor's home and be paid for their services. 

The Victorian government said it would amend the Estate Agents Act 1980 to "protect agent commissions after contracts with incomplete rebate statements were used".

Amendments will be introduced into the Victorian Parliament after a Ray White St Albans agent was ruled ineligible for commission on a land sale because the County Court ruled the ESA form was non-compliant.

In April, Victoria's Court of Appeal upheld the initial 2017 County Court ruling that denied the Ray White agent his commission.

There has been another case yet to be heard where a vendor, Marika Sutherland, seeks a ruling preventing agents Globe Real Estate from collecting an $82,000 commission on the 2017 sale of her Beaumaris home.

Despite speculation of a likely flood of claims against both the REIV and CAV, the situation has not escalated but no agent who used these forms will be penalised because of an error in the paperwork, said Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz.

"We're fixing this problem, giving agents who acted in good faith reassurance their commissions will be protected by law," she added.

The changes would not apply to disputes over commissions already dealt with by the court.

The property law expert Robert Hay, QC, warned there was no legal defence for those agents who are challenged over commissions.

"As it stands, there's not much they can do. There could be lots of innocent agents, who could be disgorged of their commissions,'' he told Fairfax Media.

Lawyers acting for Sutherland will seek $138,500 – the 10% deposit paid on the $1,385,000 sale of her home at 37 Oak Street, Beaumaris, in February 2017 – from Globe Real Estate, plus interest and legal costs.

The deposit, of which $81,616 is due to be paid out in commission, remains held in the trust account of Globe Real Estate's lawyers Marsh & Maher following a dispute over payment. The property settled in April last year.

In August, Sutherland's solicitor Bill Gioutlou filed a motion in the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the ESA form used by Globe Real Estate did not comply with section 49A of the Estate Agents Act of 1980 and because of this, Globe Real Estate is "not entitled to retain any commission or money ... in respect of the sale of the property". 

Bentleigh-based Globe Real Estate, which is owned by Yufang "Kiki" Jiang, opposes the motion.

In October last year, Globe Real Estate joined the REIV as a third party to the proceedings alleging the REIV was ultimately responsible for any non-compliance.

This would entitle Globe Real Estate to claim from the REIV relief, including any costs, losses or damages that arise out of the legal proceedings.

It is understood the REIV, which in its filed defence denies any negligence in providing the ESA form and notes it was approved by Consumer Affairs Victoria, lobbied the state government to retrospectively amend real estate laws.

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Reiv Property Contracts

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