Agent loses licence after sleeping in house for sale

Real estate leaders say the sector must learn from the case of the Auckland agent who has lost an appeal to keep practising after being caught sleeping at a house for sale.

Bindi Norwell, Real Estate Institute chief executive, encouraged other agents to take note of the case of former Bayleys' agent Geoffrey Mairs, whose High Court appeal was rejected last month.

"This behaviour breaches both the REINZ code of agency practice and the Real Estate Authority's professional conduct and client care rules," she said.

"This is not the sort of behaviour the real estate profession expects to see from its members. A lapse in judgement has cost this agent his licence. This behaviour was a clear breach of trust and no doubt will be a lesson to other agents around behaviour expectations," Norwell said.

Tony Bayley, Bayleys group licensee and agency compliance manager, said the company was aware of the decision and was in full support of the authority's findings.

Justice Anne Hinton last month dismissed Mairs' appeal against his licence being cancelled. The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal convicted him of disgraceful conduct and the judge said: "Mairs was found to have taken the keys to a client's property, stayed in the property overnight without permission and given a false explanation to a member of the public and to the police when discovered the next morning."

Mairs argued in the High Court that instead of his licence being cancelled, he should have only been suspended.

He claimed the tribunal had not taken into account mitigating factors, particularly the financial and personal stress he was suffering at the time, "his reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism and health issues including a sleep disorder requiring a breathing machine that meant he had to have access to a power supply which would not have been available to him had he not stayed at Atkin Ave."

John Waymouth, a barrister specialising in defending agents up on charges, was not surprised Mairs failed to keep his licence and said the case was being widely discussed in the sector as it was so unusual.

"Disrespecting a client's property and the consequential breach of trust is not tolerated," Waymouth said.

"When an agent fails in his duty to act with honesty and integrity and breaks the law by misusing a client's property, he will lose his licence," Waymouth said.

The court noted Mairs' actions involved prolonged untrustworthy and erratic behaviour which lasted for some 16 months after he was caught in the property, Waymouth said.

"This is a lesson for all agents to put their clients' interests first and always to act with honesty and integrity," Waymouth said.

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