Perth property manager ordered to pay over $12,000 after deceptive conduct

Perth property manager ordered to pay over $12,000 after deceptive conduct
Perth property manager ordered to pay over $12,000 after deceptive conduct

A former property manager has been fined $10,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court for deceiving tenants into paying excess rent, while the landlords were kept in the dark.

Josephine Wei-Wei Liau pleaded guilty on March 7 to 16 charges made over two years. 

One Mount Pleasant tenant was paying $950 a week, but the owners believed the tenant was only paying $800. Although the WA Residential Tenancy Act only allows two weeks of rent to be charged in advance, she demanded that the tenant pay more than six months’ rent, totaling over $30,000.

Another tenant in Yangebup paid $380 a week while the owner understood their rental rate to be $350 and the owner was not told when the rent was increased to $400 per week.

She retained the excess payments in both cases, only returning the rental income owed to the owners when confronted. She made further misrepresentations regarding a water bill for a Willetton property, an offence under Australian Consumer Law.

Liau, who was a property manager at a Perth real estate agency, made misrepresentations both as an employee and after her January 2011 departure. She advised landlords that she was acting as part of the agency, going as far as to use the agency's logo on documents, when the agency had no record of the properties being under their management. Under Australian Consumer Law it is an offence to make a false or misleading representation regarding affiliation.

She also advised clients that she held a real estate license, despite only holding a certificate in property management. This action was in breach of the Real Estate and Business Agents Act.

An application for a spent conviction, where a person may not have to acknowledge that they have been charged with an offence, was refused by Magistrate Felicity Zempilas. According to Zempilas, Liau's offences were serious and owners had the right to feel protected in relation to their property, and bonds are required to be held in a safe place.

Anne Driscoll, the commissioner for Consumer Protection, says such serious deception is unacceptable.

“Property managers have a trusted position as the liaison point between a property owner and tenant, so they must display the highest standards of honesty and integrity as required by law,” said Driscoll.

“Those who choose to profit from misleading and deceptive conduct in the real estate industry will face prosecution and suffer financial penalties as well as serious damage to their reputation.”

Liau has been ordered to pay an additional $2,220 in costs.

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