Estate agent's deceit uncovered

THE only case of deliberate malpractice uncovered by the ombudsman last year involved an agent who led buyers to purchase his house rather than a customer's.

The agent knew the buyers intended to build a fourth bedroom on to the bungalow offered for sale by Mr A. They had also said they were nervous that Mrs A, who was living in the house following a separation, was not keen to sell. The agent immediately offered the buyers his own four-bedroom bungalow and withdrew the instruction to sell it from his office. Mr A's sale fell through.

The ombudsman ruled that the agent's first duty was to tell Mr A about the buyer's doubts. Second, he should not have offered his own property exclusively for obvious personal advantage. Third, his immediate disinstruction of his own office meant he had hoped to disguise what he had done. Mr A was awarded pounds 3,000.