The Supreme Court has found that an Adelaide-based real estate agent engaged in ‘unconscionable conduct’ when he exploited a vulnerable, elderly pensioner through a property transaction.
The real estate agent, Zane Pitt, convinced the pensioner to sell their property to Pitt way below the market value. Pitt then transferred the property to his daughter, Tarnia Pitt, who sold it for a significant profit.
The victim was a widowed homeowner, who had a gambling problem, and he urgently needed to sell his property in order to ease mortgage stress and move to a retirement village.
Pitt told the homeowner, that before the house could be rented or sold, it needed a “massive amount of work”. By doing so, Pitt got him to reduce the price to $175,000, even though the market value would have been $260,000.
The property was subdivided into two properties, and Pitt’s daughter, Tarnia, sold the properties for $765,000.
According to the Supreme Court, the elderly homeowner was “in a totally vulnerable position of disadvantage” and Pitt benefited from that.
Magistrates Court will later determine the compensation payment to the homeowner and the penalty to Pitt. Under the Australian Consumer Law, Pitt faces a maximum penalty of $220,000.
Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be a one-off case of Pitt’s ‘lapse in judgement’.
In May 2011, Pitt admitted that he had broken the law in August 2006, when he convinced a mentally ill woman to let him sell her property. Pitt sold it to his brother for $190,000, who then one month later sold it for $239,000.
He admitted in the District Court that he had acted improperly as an agent because he had a conflict of interest in the transaction.