Real estate agency fined $6,000 for deceptive conduct

The agency promoted a property to have air-conditioning when it did not

Real estate agency fined $6,000 for deceptive conduct


By Mina Martin

A Victorian real estate agency has been ordered by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to pay more than $6,000 in compensation for advertising a house has air-conditioning when it did not.

O’Brien Real Estate was fined $6,347, after VCAT Member Ian Lulham ruled in favour of Sanjay Tanwar at a hearing in January, where the agency was found to have been involved in misleading and deceptive conduct by advertising that the house had “refrigerated cooling.”

The tribunal awarded Tanwar, who was pursuing the cost of installing cooling throughout the property, 50% of the quoted cost of a Samsung system, deducing that the system would have cost that much when the house was built in 2015, reported.

It was the second time the dispute got lodged at VCAT. The first time was in March last year, when O’Brien Real Estate did not show up and Tanwar was awarded $12,694 to cover the cost of air-conditioning installation. The case rounded back to the tribunal after O'Brien asked for a review of the decision.

According to tribunal’s published finding, Tanwar purchased the home from vendor Ismail El Azzouri based on a “representation” made by O’Brien in the ad that it had “ducted heating and refrigerated cooling.”

Tanwar said this was conveyed to him by O’Brien agent Lin Zhang on the final inspection and again in an SMS, although the agent hinted that he did not turn on the electric control panel which was labelled “cool,” “fan,” and “heat.”

“When Mr Tanwar took possession of the property after the settlement, he found that there was no refrigerated cooling, or indeed any cooling, in the house,” the VCAT decision paper said. “Initially, Mr Tanwar assumed that the refrigerated cooling system needed repair, and he engaged Aspen Air to investigate. Aspen Air reported that there was no refrigerated cooling system in the property, but only a ducted heater, which had the heating unit in the ceiling space.”

VCAT stressed that El Azzouri was not involved in the claim but that he, too, misled Zhang, reported.

“Largely, he sought to deny that he had instructed O’Brien that his house had refrigerated cooling, saying that Mr Zhang had misunderstood the words which Mr El Azzouzi had said and written to him, and that Mr Zhang had failed to exercise his own care and diligence in including the representation about refrigerated cooling in the advertisement,” the tribunal said.

“However, in the course of making these points, Mr El Azzouzi said that anyone looking at the house would have seen that there was no refrigerated cooling unit either on the roof or against any external wall of the house. In effect, then, he argued that Mr Tanwar’s own failure to properly observe the house on the inspection was the real cause of his loss.”

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