In another case with tragic
consequences, Barbara, an elderly woman, suffered heart attacks,
mild strokes and serious chest infections after debt collectors
began pursuing her for money.
Barbara was quoted a likely selling price of $180,000 (negotiations
above $170,000) before signing an agency agreement.
The agency then quoted a likely selling price of $160,000
(bidding to start at $145,000) before Barbara signed the agency’s
Exclusive Auction Authority.
Barbara said the agent told her twice that no fees or charges
would be payable to the agency unless the property was "sold".
This was despite the "fine print" contained within
the contract which states:
|The Vendor is obliged
to pay the Agent -
||the Marketing Expenses
incurred during the currency of the Agreement whether
or not a sale takes place.
The agency failed to sell the property at auction and was
unsuccessful in finding a buyer before the listing agreement
expired. However, the agency forwarded Barbara invoices for
outstanding advertising expenditure totalling $1,009. Later
the agency engaged the services of debt collectors and initiated
legal action against her for $1,565.61 including court costs.
Barbara contacted the HHPF who wrote to the agency. The letter
says: "On the information conveyed to us by the property
owner and on advice received by us, it appears there has been
unethical conduct and also breaches of the Trade Practices
"Your agency was aware the property owner is an elderly
pensioner who suffers from serious medical aliments, yet it
failed to ensure the property owner was able to read and understand
the written agreements (particularly the "fine print")
which your salesperson encouraged her to sign. She did so
only because of his verbal commitment: "If we can’t
sell the property, we won’t charge you any fees or advertising
costs’...The conduct of your agency is ethically reprehensible."
Barbara was due in court in July 2002 regarding the outstanding
debt. The HHPF arranged for a lawyer to represent her. However,
the court case was postponed and it now appears that the agent
has withdrawn the action.