What to do when you were wronged by a real estate agent or conveyancer

by Chris Lang on December 27, 2010

Angry woman In life things happen, and not necessarily the way we expect. Dealing with professionals who are supposed to help us, and who mess up instead, means that we are left with a mess to clean.

When the stakes are low, the damage is minimal. For example, if we buy a toaster and it blows up, we return to the shop to find that salesman and demand a refund only to find that they went out of business – OK, so we’ve lost 2 hours of our time and 20 bucks, but we’ll still survive and laugh about it one day. But when the stakes are high – and they don’t get any higher than when we make the biggest purchase of our lives – the damage can be extensive and the losses can take a long time to recover.

Any mistake made by a real estate agent or a conveyancer can be an expensive one. But luckily, in Victoria, we are not completely helpless when something like this happens. Any monetary loss that was caused to us by a licensed real estate agent (including an employee of a licensed real estate agent) or by a licensed conveyancer can be claimed from the Victorian Property Fund.

There is no limit for making a claim against an estate agent, and a 10-year time limit for making a claim against a conveyancer. There is also no limit for the amount you can claim. It is important that you only deal with licensed agents or conveyancers, because otherwise the Victorian Property Fund may reject your claim.

To make a claim you will need to fill this form (click here to open as PDF file). It has instructions on how to lodge the claim. After receiving your form, the Consumer Affairs Victoria will write to update you on the progress of your case.

If you are wondering where the money comes from, here is a bit of interesting information. Every time a house is bought in Victoria, a deposit is paid.
The deposit goes into a special trust account, managed most commonly by the real estate agency, and that amount earns interest. Since the money sits in the trust account for a long time (the most popular settlement time-frame is 60 to 90 days) before it is transferred to the vendor on the settlement day, there is a lot of interest earned. So what happens to the interest money, do estate agents keep it? No, it goes to the Victorian Property Fund, and is kept there to cover losses of people involved in real-estate-related transactions when these losses are caused by mistakes of estate agents or conveyancers.

Have you ever lost money because of an estate agent’s / conveyancer’s mistake? Did you ever recover that loss and how?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

clarelhdm December 29, 2010 at 2:03 am

I was pressured by the real estate agent I was signed to, to sell my house to a woman who supposedly wanted a very fast sale, and to move in on license. The price she offered was not high, but my house had been on the market a long time, and was considered ‘stale’ by the agents, who were treating me with contempt. Despite my misgivings, I accepted the woman’s offer. She took ages to exchange contracts, had no idea about the process, and started ringing me up for advice instead of talking to the agent or solicitors. I had sold four other houses previously, so this was quite a shock. All the time I was being asked by her to allow her to move in as soon as contracts had been signed. I had found a house to purchase that was vacant, so I thought that the license agreement would be possible.
After every imaginable delay, finally contracts were exchanged and my conveyancer drew up the license agreement. I was moving out on the Thursday, and she was going to move in on the Sunday. As we hadn’t settled, I was still responsible for my mortgage (to be off-set by the purchaser’s rent) and I was also responsible for rent on the property I had just purchased. I signed the license agreement and moved on the Thursday after exchange. However, early the following week I was informed that the purchaser of my house had not moved in, and had now decided that it had taken so long for the exchange that she would just move in on settlement. I was now responsible for both my mortgage and rent. My conveyancer was clearly negligent as they had told me that everything was set for me to move and I should go ahead. When I got angry at them they threatened to walk away and not complete the sale. The agent washed his hands of the situation, and told me he would work towards an ‘early settlement’. He did absolutely nothing….settlement took the usual 6 weeks. I lost over $1000 on the screw up they all caused me. I am in NSW, so unaware if there is a similar body re disputes here. At the time I was so exhausted and there was so much at stake I just tried to get through it the best I could. It was a horrible experience as they all knew I was over a barrel and caught in the situation, and unable to walk away.

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cursos de idiomas en el extranjero January 10, 2011 at 12:44 am

Generally, if it was really pissing me off, I will get disappointed, but in some cases it could be my fault, why i trusted those kind of people.

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Southern California Real Estate Listings March 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

That sounds like a real nightmare, sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience and bad advice by your agent. Some times the best move is to fire the agent; the buyer or seller should never be pressured into a bad deal.

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