21/10/2011 - 12:55

House sale rules toughened after scams

21/10/2011 - 12:55

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House sale rules toughened after scams

A real estate scam that led to two Perth houses being sold without the owners' knowledge has prompted the state government to toughen house sale rules.

Earlier this year a couple living overseas returned to Perth to inspect their property in Ballajura in the city's east only to find it had been sold without their consent.

A real estate agent said he had received an urgent request to sell the property from a man claiming to be the owner and needing the money for a business investment.

Last year, Roger Mildenhall's $485,000 investment property in Karrinyup was sold while he was in South Africa, after a real estate agent was conned by scammers posing as the owner.

Police said it appeared the identity theft scam originated in Nigeria.

In both cases, the scammers received payment and the true homeowners did not get a cent, although they are seeking compensation.

Commerce Minister Simon O'Brien said the government had moved to combat such property fraud by toughening rules on identifying sellers.

He said the codes of conduct for real estate and settlement agents had been strengthened.

"Agents will be required to undertake thorough identity verification checks to ensure they are dealing with the real owner of the property," Mr O'Brien said.

Guidelines issued by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection advise agents to carry out a 100-point client identity verification to ensure they are dealing with the true owner or authorised representative, he said.

Under the new rules, consumer protection officers will conduct regular visits to agents to ensure they conform to the new codes of conduct.

Mr O'Brien said the checks added to measures put in place by Landgate for transactions involving owners living overseas.

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