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Vernon realtor scolded, fined after forgetting paperwork

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November 30, 2019 - 7:00 AM

A North Okanagan realtor described by his manager as detailed and ethical has been fined $9,000 by the provincial regulator because he forgot to deposit a $25,000 cheque.

According to a Real Estate Council of British Columbia decision, realtor Russell James Churchill Buset Armstrong received the $25,000 deposit cheque and contract for the sale of a $1.2-million property on a Sunday and placed them in his desk drawer that evening with the intention of submitting the cheque and paperwork to the brokerage the following morning.

However, Armstrong forgot, and his absent-mindedness led to the buyer launching a legal suit against the seller. The case demonstrates the thin margin for error in high cost real estate transactions.

In the decision from the Real Estate Council, published Nov. 27, the realtor who is a representative with Century 21 Executives Realty is described by his brokerage manager as "detailed, ethical," and a "well-informed licensee" whose actions were "unintentional and a mistake."

The case concerns a $1.2 million 125-acre property in Armstrong that had been listed several times between 2005 and 2016 although it had not sold. In 2017 a family friend of the realtor approached him regarding the property saying they'd seen a private for sale sign on the property.

A licenced realtor since 2011 with a clean record, Armstrong entered into a limited dual agent agreement and presented the sellers with a $1,075,000 offer. The sellers rejected the offer and made a counter-offer for $1,200,000 which the buyer accepted.

Armstrong called the sellers and told them the offer had been accepted, drew up the contract and, because the sellers didn't use email, delivered it by hand two days later.

Almost a week later, with everything now in place, Armstrong went to see the sellers and finalize the deal.

According to the decision, Armstrong said the sellers then had cold feet and he advised them to seek independent legal advice.

The sellers said they thought the deal had collapsed as the counteroffer had not been accepted in time. The sellers had no recollection of the earlier phone call where they were advised the buyer had accepted their counteroffer. The decision states phone records indicate the call was made within the deadline.

Armstrong told the buyer the sellers were refusing to sell and to seek legal advice. The buyer did and decided to continue with the sale.

On April 2, 2017, which was a Sunday, the buyer delivered a $25,000 deposit to Armstrong one day before the April 3 deadline.

It was at this point the realtor put the cheque in his drawer and forgot about it.

A little over two weeks later the buyer launched a civil suit against the sellers.

On May 1, Armstrong discovered the cheque and contract in his drawer and immediately reported the find. The buyer and seller were immediately informed and the realtor's manager reported the matter to the Real Estate Council.

The property sale did not complete until after March 2018 when the court proceedings between the buyer and seller finished.

Ultimately the Real Estate Council found Armstrong had committed professional misconduct by failing to "promptly deliver" contract documents, "promptly" submit the buyer’s deposit into the brokerage and failing to keep his managing broker informed of the situation.

Armstrong was fined a $7,500 discipline penalty, in which he has 90 days to pay and $1,500 enforcement expenses with 60 days to pay.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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