4 Aug 2015

Couple wins justice for real estate agent

6:16 pm on 4 August 2015

A Paihia couple has won a three-year battle to get their real estate agent a share of the commission on their house sale, gaining nothing themselves other than a sense of justice.

Paihia story for LUNDY!


Richard and Jill Burrows had listed their house - valued at $2 million - with then Ray White agent Ross Robertson in 2011 but it failed to sell. About 18 months later, and with Mr Robertson having spent about $10,000 on advertising the property, they listed it with Harcourts representative Raewyn Paterson and Dennis Corbett on the condition they split the commission with Mr Robertson.

Harcourts sold the house within about a month, for $875,000, and two months later Mr Burrows discovered Mr Robertson had received nothing.

Mr Burrows said Ms Paterson hung up on him when he asked her about it, and that Mr Corbett did not return his phone calls, so he laid a complaint with the Real Estate Agent's Authority (REAA).

It found, in November 2013, that no further action should be taken against the Harcourts agents but Mr Burrows appealed that decision to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal - a separate body which is part of the Ministry of Justice.

It found the agents were guilty of unsatisfactory conduct and fined them $1000 each, as well as ordering them to pay Mr Robertson $5475 from the $28,375 commission.

Mr Burrows said the retired couple had gained nothing financially from the battle - despite selling the house well below its valuation due to financial pressure they were under at the time.

"The fact that we made a commitment and we've basically honoured our commitment, that's given us a great feeling. That's it," he said.

"We're very pleased that we were able to succeed with some sort of commission for Ross Robertson. We think it was fair and a reasonable settlement in the end, so that was good."

Mr Burrows said the couple had made a commitment to Mr Robertson, who they had dealt with a number of times previously.

"I suppose in life, as you get older, you believe that if you make commitments to somebody like we did to Ross, that we would look after him and not if you like screw him in any way shape or form, and that's how I would treat anybody that I know well and has looked after me, and to me it's been blatantly obvious that someone wasn't quite telling the truth," he said.

"I think he's very happy. He said he's never had a person pursue something like this before on his behalf ... he said he's quite blown away by it."

'Unusually scrupulously honest'

Mr Robertson said Mr and Mrs Burrows were an "unusually scrupulously honest" couple with a sound sense of fair play.

"Richard's got a huge personal sense of fair play and justice, quite remarkable, and he also doesn't like feeling he's been misled at any stage," he said.

"I've known him to be a scrupulously honest man of his word, what he says is what he does."

Many people intended to do the right thing but often failed to follow through once the dust settled and everyone moved on, Mr Robertson said.

"People's intentions are very, very good. You meet far more good people than people that cause you any grief in this business but it would be lovely if everybody had that same sense of fair play.

"It is wonderful, when the going gets tough, that someone sticks by their principles to this extent."

Mr Corbett said he and Ms Paterson, who now worked for another company, did not agree with the decision but had accepted it because it would cost too much to challenge it.

"I do find it a little bit strange that it's gone the way it has. In all the evidence that was presented it was ruled that in the first place we were right, and then it was overturned," he said.

"I still think it should be or could be challenged if it was going to be viable."

An REAA spokeswoman said the tribunal made 100 appeal decisions last year, of which only 17 were successful.