30 July 2023

Banned real estate agent may have mishandled up to $400,000 of clients' money

| Albert McKnight
Man leaving court

Nicholas Shazzard Haider, 38, has been disqualified from applying for a real estate agent’s licence for 10 years. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A former real estate agent suspected of dishonestly dealing with up to $400,000 of his clients’ money has been banned from applying for a real estate agent’s licence for 10 years.

The Commissioner for Fair Trading had asked the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to take disciplinary action against 38-year-old Nicholas Shazzard Haider.

In a published decision by the tribunal’s Senior Member Professor Tony Foley, he said six complaints had been made against Haider between October 2020 and December 2022, although there were no details for one of them.

Several of his bank accounts were frozen in May 2022 as trust money appeared to have allegedly been stolen, misappropriated or misapplied.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in the ACT Magistrates Court, which were dealing with trust money other than as directed and receiving trust money and not paying it into a trust account.

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Some complaints related to clients’ money that had been paid into a trust account as a deposit for a property, but were then transferred into Haider’s personal bank accounts.

“A common pattern was evident – as soon as a deposit hit his trust account, the agent would immediately transfer funds out to his personal account,” Professor Foley said.

In another complaint, clients paid $104,500 to his personal accounts in 2021 as part of a sale deposit for a property in Taylor, but none of these funds were put into a trust.

The clients also learned that the property had been sold to someone else through a different agent, then they were not able to get their deposit back for 10 months.

Professor Foley said when all the complaints were added together, Haider had apparently dishonestly dealt with a minimum of $350,000 and possibly as much as $400,000.

Also, it had been submitted that $250,000 was yet to be returned.

“This is an extreme level of dishonesty,” Professor Foley said.

“It continued in some form for a period in excess of three years.

“The culpability is considerable and is further compounded as only some of the money has been returned.”

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When discussing the impacts on the clients, he said one faced the disappointment of missing out on the purchase of the property they had paid a deposit for, another lost the opportunity to purchase alternative land for her retirement plans, while a third lost both money and trust in his first foray into property development.

“More broadly, the impact of the contravention on the community’s faith in real estate agents is profoundly damaged,” he said.

On Wednesday (26 July), ACAT publicly reprimanded Haider, fined him $5000 and disqualified him from applying for a real estate agent’s licence for 10 years.

Haider had said he was “extremely sorry and disappointed in himself” and intended to ensure trust money was returned to all innocent parties.

“However, he has made no effort whatsoever to be involved in these proceedings and the tribunal has had no opportunity to assess the genuineness of his remorse,” Professor Foley said.

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