SINGAPORE: A property agent has been fined S$27,000 for altering lease agreements to collect additional commissions, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said in a statement on Monday (Dec 23).
George Peh Meng Woon of KF Property Network has also had his CEA registration suspended for 10 months.
The 45-year-old committed the breaches several years ago, when he was a property agent with DTZ Property Network.
From December 2013 to May 2014, three tenants had separately engaged Peh to help them source for suitable properties in Singapore to lease, with the clients agreeing to pay commission fees.
At the same time, Peh had asked three property agents who were each representing a landlord to co-broke the transactions with him, while withholding information that he would be collecting commissions from the tenants.
All three landlords’ agents agreed to the co-broke arrangements and signed agreements with Peh.
To disguise the commissions he was receiving from his clients, Peh altered three official DTZ “Commission Agreement for Lease (Tenant)” documents without DTZ’s authorisation, and changed them to “Property Management Agreements” (PMAs) instead.
In the PMAs, he described the sums he received from his clients as “property management fees” for services provided in relation to the lease of the properties.
This enabled him to collect additional commissions of S$55,879 for the three lease transactions, on top of co-broking fees of S$8,785 received from the landlords’ agents, said CEA.
In total, he received a sum of about S$64,664 from these transactions, which was about seven times more than what he would otherwise have received, said CEA.
Peh declared his co-broking fees to his property agency DTZ, but not the sums received from his clients.
He pleaded guilty to the CEA Disciplinary Committee to three charges under the council’s code of ethics and professional client care.
The committee sentenced Peh to a total financial penalty of S$27,000 for the three charges.
It also suspended his property agent registration for six months, 10 months, and nine months respectively for each of the three charges, with the suspension periods to run concurrently from Monday.
Other charges for failing to declare to DTZ the commissions received and a fourth fraudulent lease transaction were taken into account for sentencing by the committee.
"His disreputable behaviour resulted in multiple parties being defrauded over a series of different lease transactions. These actions went against the core of his professional duties," said the CEA.
CEA advised consumers that property agents can only represent one party in a single transaction and the agents cannot collect commissions from both parties in that same transaction.
In response to CNA queries, CEA said Peh eventually chose to retain the commission received from the tenant-clients, and declared these commission amounts to DTZ.
DTZ returned the co-broking fees to the property agencies they had co-broking arrangements with. Peh received his share of the commissions from his tenant-clients that amounted to S$47,001.