Real estate agency SQFT and its agent fined for sale and marketing of New Zealand property

SQFT Global Properties Singapore Pte Ltd (SQFT) has been fined for failing to supervise the conduct of its then-property agent Paleenia Wong Mui Wah on the sale and marketing of Albany Heights Villas, a property in Auckland, New Zealand.
SQFT Global Properties Singapore Pte Ltd (SQFT) has been fined for failing to supervise the conduct of its then-property agent Paleenia Wong Mui Wah on the sale and marketing of Albany Heights Villas, a property in Auckland, New Zealand.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM SQFTGLOBAL.COM

SINGAPORE - The Council for Estate Agencies' (CEA) Disciplinary Committee has slapped a $10,000 fine on real estate agency SQFT Global Properties Singapore Pte Ltd (SQFT), for failing to supervise the conduct of its then-property agent Paleenia Wong Mui Wah on the sale and marketing of Albany Heights Villas, a property in Auckland, New Zealand.

In a media release on Monday (Dec 5), CEA said it also fined Ms Wong $6,000 for not acting reasonably towards an investor in the sale and marketing of the property.

Around mid-April 2011, the investor had contacted Ms Wong regarding Albany Heights Villas, and decided to purchase a unit after a meeting.

A sum of NZ$65,000 (S$65,746) was paid to "Harkness Law Trust Account" with ANZ bank for the unit. When queried, Ms Wong falsely told the investor that the account was for the construction of the property and that the developer, Albany Heights Villa Ltd, would not be able to use the money for other purposes.

However in June 2011, the developer took money from the account without any construction having begun, and later went into liquidation around Feb 5, 2013.

The investor has been unable to recover the money.

"Neither SQFT nor Wong conducted proper due diligence checks on the ANZ account. SQFT failed to understand the true nature of the ANZ account that there was no restriction on the withdrawal of funds from the account by Albany Heights Villa Ltd and failed to supervise Wong in her verbal representation to the investor," CEA said in the media release.

The duties, business activities, and conduct of property agencies and agents in Singapore are governed by the Estate Agents Act and Regulations, which include the Code of Practice and the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care.

These aim to raise the ethical and professional standards of the industry and safeguard consumers' interests.

CEA also advised consumers that given the complexities and risks of purchasing foreign properties, they should find out pertinent information such as the foreign country's rules and restrictions on property purchases and ownership.

Some other things to look out for include whether the property has obtained approvals from the authorities, taxes payable, pricing and terms and conditions of the purchase, the foreign property market condition and currency exchange risks.

"Consumers should exercise due diligence before entering into any agreement to buy foreign properties. They should not rely solely on the advice from representatives of the foreign developer."

More tips can be found on the CEA's guide on buying foreign properties.