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Real estate agency ordered to pay after advertising mislead buyer on air-conditioning

A Melbourne real estate agency has discovered the hard way that it pays to get your listing copy right after being ordered to pay more than $6000 to a buyer who bought a home on the assumption it had refrigerated cooling.

According to the Herald Sun, the Melbourne agency advertised a property online as having “ducted heating and refrigerated cooling” when it did not have any air conditioning installed.

The buyer of the property purchased the home in August 2020 on the assumption it had refrigerated cooling, only to discover after he took possession of the home it did not have any cooling systems in place.

After attempting to seek payment from the real estate agency, the matter escalated to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The tribunal found that the advertised representation of the house was “misleading or deceptive” and ordered the agency to partially cover the cost of installing a new air conditioner.

During the final inspection of the property, the buyer did not turn on any of the heating or cooling appliances but sighted a wall-mounted electronic control panel which had buttons for “on/off”, “cool”, “fan” and “heat”.

Reportedly, the buyer assumed the refrigerated cooling system needed fixing, but after arranging for repairs, he discovered there was no cooling system installed.

The agent reportedly also sent the buyer a text message implying the house had refrigerated cooling.

The real estate agency was ordered by VCAT to pay the buyer $12,694 in March last year but applied for the ruling to be reviewed, claiming any misrepresentations in the online advertisement were caused by the original seller of the home, who had instructed his conveyancer to inform the agent that the heating and cooling worked.

VCAT deputy president Ian Lulham said he accepted the agency and the agent “did not seek to lie or mislead” and that the vendor contributed to the misrepresentation.

The matter returned to VCAT in January this year, and it was found that the buyer was entitled to half of the original cost quoted to him in 2020 and ordered the real estate agency to pay compensation of $6347 as well as a $217.70 filing fee.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.