Approached by the friend of an elderly flat owner to handle the sale of his Housing Board flat, a property agent failed to ascertain if the co-owner, who was the wife, was fully aware of the consequences of this deal.
In August 2015, PropNex Realty property agent Ng Ser Leong, 44, obtained the thumbprints of the woman in her 80s - who is illiterate, has advanced dementia and lives in an old folks' home - on documents for the transaction. Some details were left blank.
For failing to conduct his work "with due diligence and care" while dealing with a vulnerable client, and for havingher sign an agreement in which essential information had been omitted, Ng was fined $6,000.
He will also be suspended for seven months, from Oct 19, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said in a statement yesterday.
Ng pleaded guilty to the two charges of breaching the CEA's Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care.
Four other charges were taken into consideration. One was for failing in conscientious service as he met the elderly co-owner only once at the old folks' home in Pasir Ris where she lived, and did not update her on the sale thereafter.
The other three charges were for not giving her copies of the three documents she had endorsed.
Ngis the first agent to be taken to task by CEA's Disciplinary Committee for not conducting his work with due diligence and care where it involved a vulnerable client.
The CEA, a statutory board that regulates the real estate agency industry, handled 17 Disciplinary Committee cases last year, and 15 this year thus far. It had 18 other cases that went to court last year, and 11 this year.
This case came to light when the flat owners' children found out about the impending sale, which was stopped, said the CEA.
After obtaining the co-owner's thumbprints in August 2015 on transaction documents while she was at the old folks' home, Ng then advertised the couple's flat online.
The same month, a potential buyer responded to the ad and agreed to buy the flat for $360,000.
The buyer put up an option fee of $1,000, and subsequently spent $4,000 to exercise the option to purchase, all within the month.
But around September, the couple's son learnt of the sale after his father was hospitalised, and lodged a complaint against Ng with the CEA.
When Ng was questioned by the son, he was said to have admitted that he had been informed on an earlier visit to the flat that the elderly female seller was "senile".
The resale application for the flat was subsequently cancelled in October, and the $1,000 option fee was refunded to the buyer.
In response to queries, PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor said Ng's employment with the firm is being reviewed. "The management will review the severity of the case and counsel him. After his suspension, he will undertake that he will be in compliance with all guidelines moving forward. We are prepared to give him a second chance."
Ng has been with PropNex for 13 years and has concluded more than 500 HDB transactions, said Mr Ismail. Ng declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.