Complaints from Sydney buyer over Internet advertising.
Article originally published AUGUST 9, 2004 –Reviewed and approved.
By Neil Jenman
A Tasmanian real estate firm has pleaded guilty in the Hobart Magistrates Court to two charges of making false representations to a buyer.
Petrusma and Partners, which describes itself as “Tasmania’s largest privately owned real estate company”, was found to have misled a Sydney woman who purchased a Tasmanian property in January this year.
The property had been advertised on the Internet as a one-hectare block. However, after agreeing to purchase the land, the buyer discovered it was only 0.6 of a hectare, 40 per cent smaller than the advertised size.
Petrusma and Partners also told the buyer that the property was connected to the main sewerage service when, in fact, there was no sewerage service.
The buyer complained to the Tasmanian Office of Consumers Affairs who acted against Petrusma and Partners.
The prosecutor in the case, Frank Neasy, reportedly said that the complaint was not at the lower end of the scale and the maximum penalty was $100,000.
The court heard that the agency had known for at least a month that the size of the property was less than the size advertised on its website. The agency did not change its website advertisement.
After pleading guilty in the Hobart Magistrates Court on Friday, Petrusma and Partners was fined $5,000.
Director of Petrusma and Partners, Hank Petrusma, is a former past president of the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania (REIT). His agency is currently the holder of the REIT award for “best Tasmanian Real Estate website”. According to one of the judges, Petrusma and Partners won the “prestigious award” because, it “demonstrates how to use the Internet to improve their business.”
The REIT says that consumers will benefit by dealing with one of its agents because they have “a professional, ethical and responsible approach to business.”
The lawyer acting for Petrusma and Partners said that the buyer had wanted a property big enough to carry a horse and that despite the land being smaller than advertised, it was still big enough for a horse. A truly excellent defence. Those Sydney buyers can be so fussy.
The lawyer suggested that Petrusma and Partners was being treated as a “scapegoat”.
When you think about it, he could be right.
After all, as any REIT agent knows, horses don’t need sewerage.
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