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Directors Report
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:

Insider trading
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 through deception
Being duped into placing homes "on the market" during auctions
Properties under-sold (and later re-sold at higher prices)
Two-tier marketing scams
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 the HHPF.

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 of victory.

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.

Media work

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 Jenman Group.

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".

Staff resources

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.

Our supporters

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
Geoffrey Roberson

Neil Jenman
John Corney
Sam Pennisi
Jason Sprague

Directors

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