Audit leads to shut down

THE upmarket Byron Bay realestate agency Belle Property closed its doors last week after the national group tore up its contract with the franchise owner, Sarah Dougan.

The company axed its agreement with Ms Dougan following an internal audit, Belle Property Australasia chief executive Peter Hanscomb said on Friday.

The audit was carried out in response to a complaint about a sale settlement, he said.

Fair Trading confirmed it was aware of the issue and was looking into the matter.

“As an investigation is proceeding, no further comment is offered at this time,” a spokeswoman said.

Mr Hanscomb flew to Byron Bay last Monday to meet with staff and is in discussions with potential new owners of the franchise.

Agents and other staff were left reeling, by the closure and severalof them are hoping to be re-employed when it the agency re-opens.

Bryce Cameronworked there as a sales consultant with his father Neil.

He said it had been “a terrible week” and he hoped the new franchise-holders would be able to “push forward”.

The move comes just monthsafter Ms Dougan bought the Frances O'Connor Real Estate agency, based in Fletcher St, and rebranded it under the prestige Belle marque.

Mr Hanscomb said he was deeply disappointed that Belle Property's excellent reputation may have been tarnished.

“Our company values includeintegrity and the highest level of professionalism,” he said.

“Our Byron Bay office will continue under new ownership as soon as possible.”

Ms Dougan did not return calls from The Northern Star.



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