Estate agent gets suspension, fine for breaching ethics code

He had amended documents to obtain additional commissions

A property agent was fined $27,000 and suspended for 10 months for altering documents without authorisation, in order to collect additional commissions.

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said yesterday that its disciplinary committee fined property agent George Peh Meng Woon for three charges in relation to breaches of the council's code of ethics and professional client care.

Mr Peh, 45, who is with KF Property Network, also had his property agent registration suspended for 10 months, effective yesterday, over the three charges.

Mr Peh had been a property agent with DTZ Property Network (DTZ) when he committed the breaches.

He pleaded guilty to three charges of altering documents without DTZ's authorisation to obtain commissions of $5,140, $29,040 and $21,699, which were disguised as property management fees.

Together with co-broking fees, Mr Peh received a total of $64,664 from these transactions.

He only declared the co-broking fees to DTZ, but withheld information about the additional commissions he received from the tenants.

On three occasions between December 2013 and May 2014, three clients had engaged Mr Peh separately to help them source for suitable rental properties in Singapore.

He took his clients to view properties, and the clients each agreed to pay him commission fees after agreeing to lease the properties.

At the same time, he made co-broking arrangements with three property agents who each represented different landlords, but did not tell them that he was also collecting commissions from his own tenant-clients.

  • REPORT MALPRACTICE

  • To report agents whom consumers suspect to be unprofessional and unethical in property transactions,

    • Call CEA on 1800-643-2555

    • E-mail feedback@cea.gov.sg

    • Visit www.cea.gov.sg/4steps for information on engaging property agencies and agents.

The CEA prohibits agents from collecting commissions from both landlord and tenant in the same lease transaction.

He received a total of $8,785 in co-broking fees from landlords' property agents.

To disguise the client-side commissions, Mr Peh altered three official DTZ documents without the company's authorisation, changing them from commission agreements to property management agreements.

He described the commissions, totalling $55,879, as "property management fees" for services rendered in relation to the lease of the properties.

"Peh only declared his co-broking fees to his property agency DTZ, but did not declare the sums received from his clients, thereby failing to act honestly towards DTZ in the conduct of estate agency work," the CEA said.

 
 

"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," the CEA added.

The council's disciplinary committee also took into account four other charges against Mr Peh for sentencing.

These involved failing to declare the three commissions of $5,140, $29,040 and $21,699 to DTZ, and for altering the company's official document to disguise and obtain a commission of $10,700 as "property management fee" in a fourth lease transaction.

The CEA advises anyone seeking to rent or lease out a property that an agent can represent either the landlord or the tenant, and not both parties.

Agents cannot collect commissions from both parties in that same transaction. This also applies to sale and purchase transactions, it added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2019, with the headline 'Estate agent gets suspension, fine for breaching ethics code'. Print Edition | Subscribe