TRUST accounts held by the now defunct Byron Bay real estate agency Belle Property are missing more than half a million dollars, the Department of Fair Trading has revealed.
The department last night called for clients of the agency to come forward, saying its investigation into the property had so far found trust account “deficiencies” of more than $550,000.
Belle Property Byron Bay closed last week and Fair Trading seized the agency’s business records after the Belle Property Group, which franchised the Byron business to Sarah Dougan, contacted the department to say it had found “anomalies” in the agency’s trust accounts.
Belle Property Group has since terminated its franchise agreement with Ms Dougan.
Fair Trading has appointed its own independent manager to oversee the wind-down of the business and has interviewed several people involved with the agency.
No charges have been laid against Ms Dougan, who has returned to Sydney. Ms Dougan’s partly-built home at Skinners Shoot is being sold at a mortgagee auction through the Ballina McGrath agency.
Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe urged Belle Byron Bay’s clients to contact the department “as a matter of urgency” on 13 32 20.
“In particular, this applies to anyone who may have booked a holiday rental, purchased a property or entered into a lease,” Mr Stowe said.
Clients who lost money from trust accounts with the agency were able to apply to the Property Services Compensation Fund.
Claims to the fund must be made within 12 months of the client becoming aware of an issue and must be made in writing to the fund’s director general.
More details about the fund are available on the Fair Trading website, www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.