|Consumers suffer extraordinary
losses in real estate, often because they are betrayed by dishonest
or incompetent people in the real estate industry. Buying or
selling a home is, for most consumers, the most important financial
transaction of their life, yet there are many traps.
The victims are often elderly. Some have been financially or
emotionally crippled but lack the money, understanding or strength
to fight for compensation through the legal system.
The HHPF has helped victims in the following situations:
||Misleading and deceptive conduct
||Demands for payment of marketing
invoices for homes which have not sold
||Demands for payment of sales commissions
for homes which have not sold
||Demands for payment of sales commissions
for homes sold through other agencies
||Being duped into signing documents
||Being duped into placing homes "on
the market" during auctions
||Properties under-sold (and later
re-sold at higher prices)
||Get-rich-quick seminar scams
|This report contains true stories
of distraught homesellers and homebuyers who lost money, health
and peace of mind. Many were rescued through the efforts of
How do we help?
People who have experienced problems in buying or selling a
home contact the HHPF. The HHPF provides three levels of assistance.
1. Advice and encouragement
A homeseller or homebuyer may contact us because they have experienced
poor treatment or misleading conduct from an agent. The HHPF
can advise them of their legal rights and possible solutions.
The consumer will be informed of any apparent breach of the
Trade Practices Act.
The HHPF receives a steady stream of these each week. In many
cases the victim has been able to resolve the issue using their
new knowledge - see, for example, Case
Study 1 in this report.
2. Letter to the offending agent
The HHPF can write on behalf of the homeseller or homebuyer
to the offending agent or lawyer. The letter notifies the practitioner
that a complaint has been received and requests a just resolution.
This can be very effective. Several such letters have been sent
in the last twelve months and in nearly all cases the parties
have backed away from an unethical stance.
3. Legal representation
The HHPF can provide full legal representation to a homeseller
or homebuyer if:
||They have suffered loss in
buying or selling a home, caused by dishonest, illegal
or incompetent behaviour by a real estate agent, lawyer
or other party; and
||They lack the "know-how",
money or strength to fight for compensation through the
legal system; and
||There is a reasonable chance
This is time-consuming and expensive. Usually an HHPF representative
meets with the victim, takes a Statutory Declaration, and retains
legal representation. It is customary to lodge complaints with
relevant government bodies, ministers and industry bodies.
The HHPF seeks reimbursement of costs if the case is successful.
At the time of writing, the HHPF has 53 cases in progress on
behalf of consumers.
The HHPF uses media publicity wherever possible to help victims
of real estate fraud and to educate the community.
For instance, Channel 7’s Today Tonight, in a
report on two-tier Marketing Scams, spoke to two victims presented
by the HHPF. Similarly, ABC Radio Station 6WF interviewed Suzanne
Payne, a victim of double commissions, thanks to the efforts
of the HHPF.
Why the name change?
The organisation began as the Consumer Protection Fund. The
first contributions were received in September 2000 and were
banked into an audited bank account administered by the Neil
On 1 July 2002 the Consumer Protection Fund was replaced by
The Homesellers and Homebuyers Protection Fund Limited (HHPF).
The new structure formalises the previous "handshake"
arrangement. The HHPF is a non-profit company limited by guarantee.
Copies of the constitution are available on request.
The name changed because a company name is not allowed to include
the word "Consumer".
The HHPF currently has two staff. Craig Lean was a Police Detective
for 16 years and has a passion for helping victims and catching
crooks. He is employed to liaise with consumers, investigate
claims of unethical or illegal behaviour and help pursue justice
and compensation. Craig has also initiated or participated in
Open Inspection Surveys, bait pricing investigations, searches
of apartment sales data and investigations into two-tier marketing
practices. Craig is a licensed investigator.
Jeffrey Dalrymple LL.B is an experienced litigation lawyer with
an extensive background in commercial fraud. He has worked as
a prosecutor for the Commonwealth DPP for many years, the Office
of Fair Trading and the National Crime Authority. He is employed
to research and pursue the HHPF’s most serious cases involving
fraud, dishonest behaviour and provide legal assistance as required.
The Neil Jenman Group provides administrative assistance to
the HHPF. To cope with the rising level of demand, there are
plans to employ three more staff including administrative assistants
and another investigator.
The work of the HHPF would not be possible without the generous
financial contributions of Jenman Approved real estate agents.
The demand for our services keeps growing as word spreads. We
currently have an overwhelming caseload which can only be addressed
by more staff resources.
We thank our supporters for their generosity and look forward
to their continued support.
6 January 2003