Probe into property deal

By Rachel Afflick THE NSW Office of Fair Trading is looking into claims Mullumbimby Real Estate agent Sean Kenny exploited an elderly woman when he bought her property and put it back on the market for a profit of at least $250,000.

Sean Kenny paid a grandmother $350,000 for her property four months ago and is now asking $624,000.

Sydney-based ethics campaigner Neil Jenman claims on his website that Kenny acted immorally over the deal, which was settled in June this year.

A spokesperson for the Office of Fair Trading yesterday said they were 'aware of the matter' and were 'looking into it'. The Office of Fair Trading administers consumer laws.

If someone is found guilty under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act, the Office of Fair Trading has the power to enact a range of penalties from monetary fines to stripping an agent's licence.

Mr Jenman's website states that Mr Kenny approached the 69-year-old woman, Merron Shackel, and offered to buy her home and block of land on two separate titles for a total of $350,000 through Bale Building Company. Kenny and his offsider, Glenn Maxwell, are directors of that company. Now the home and vacant block of land are on the market for a combined total of $624,000.

"Sure, you may not have done anything illegal (as incredible as that seems), but most ordinary folk are likely to look upon what you are doing in rather simple terms," Mr Jenman stated.

The story, which appeared in Saturday's Northern Star, has drawn the attention of national media, with television crews from Channel Nine spotted in the area yesterday.

Mr Kenny yesterday told The Northern Star he had done nothing wrong, describing it as 'a witch-hunt'.

He also issued a statement to the media detailing how, in February, he received a phone call from one of the daughters of Mrs Shackel concerned one of her siblings was negotiating with her mother to buy the property for $200,000.

"I was also advised that a local dentist had been negotiating to purchase the property for an amount of $300,000," Mr Kenny said.

"I contacted Mrs Shackel with a view to obtaining a listing. She said she didn't want to list the property, but wanted to sell it quickly and for $350,000."

He said Mrs Shackel suggested he buy it.

Mr Kenny said he obtained an independent appraisal of the property indicating a value of $400,000 to $450,000 and pointed out to Mrs Shackel that his offer was lower than that valuation.

"Mrs Shackel and her legal representative were fully apprised of the estimated market value of the property at all relevant times," Mr Kenny said.

"She did not list the property and was under no obligation to sell via my agency or me."

Mr Kenny also said that since the settlement he made a number of improvements to the property.

But one of Merron Shackel's four daughters, Janelle Shackel, said the deal was unethical and immoral and that her mum was in poor health, and didn't know what she was doing.

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