SINGAPORE: Real estate agency SQFT Global Properties Singapore was on Oct 4 fined S$10,000 for failing to supervise its agent with regard to the sale and marketing of a property in New Zealand.
In a media release on Monday (Dec 5), the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said Paleenia Wong Mui Wah, who was an agent with SQFT Global Properties Singapore at the time, had told an investor that the NZ$65,000 (S$65,555) to be paid for a unit in Albany Heights Villas in Auckland, New Zealand, would be kept in a law practice's trust account for the project's construction.
She also told the investor that the developer would not be able to use the money in the trust account for other purposes.
However, Wong misrepresented the situation to the investor, CEA said. The developer took the money from the trust account before construction began on Albany Heights Villas. The money in the trust account was transferred to the developer before construction on the property began, and the developer went into liquidation about a year and a half later. The investor has not been able to recover the money, CEA added.
"Wong had thereby failed to act reasonably towards the investor in the sale and marketing of Albany Heights Villas," CEA said.
Wong was also fined S$6,000 on Nov 28 for violating the code of ethics and professional client care under the Estate Agents Act.
CEA said both SQFT and Wong failed to conduct proper due diligence on the trust account. SQFT did not understand the true nature of the account, in that there were no restrictions on the withdrawal of funds by the developer, and also did not supervise Wong in her verbal representation to the investor, it added.
"As such, Wong had no basis at all to give the assurances to the investor. Accordingly, SQFT had failed to supervise Wong to ensure that she conducted her estate agency work in a professional and reasonable manner," CEA added.
The council added that consumers should exercise due diligence before entering into any agreement to purchase foreign properties, and should not rely solely on the advice from representatives of the foreign developer. Consumers can also refer to its guide on buying foreign properties, it said.