Gonzales Murder House Leads to New Disclosure Laws

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the sale of the former family home of convicted triple murderer Sef Gonzales, the the NSW Government has moved to tighten disclosure laws for real estate agents.

Agents failed to disclose the home's grisly past to a Sydney couple, who only discovered the truth after putting down an $80,000 deposit on the North Ryde property. Aghast, they decided not to proceed with the purchase, standing to lose their deposit.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Reba Meagher said the case demonstrated that buyers need to be made aware of significant facts that may reasonably influence their decision to buy a particular property.

Under current laws, the agents had no obligation to reveal the home's history.

Among the changes to disclosure requirements now being contemplated are higher penalties for agents who fail to disclose information that could have a substantial impact on the value of a property.

"This will provide greater protection for consumers and guidance for the industry on these matters and will be introduced as soon as practicable," Ms Meagher promised.

She said that while the vast majority of the state’s 14,000 licensed real estate agents do the right thing by consumers, incidents such as this one could damage the reputation of the whole industry.

"Buying a home is the largest and most important investment decision most consumers will ever make.

"Homebuyers have a right to know the details about a property that may affect the value of that property or their decision to buy it," she said.

The Office of Fair Trading is looking into the conducts of the agents involved in the sale of the property, with investigators continuing to interview relevant parties.

The law reform announcement follows an offer by the L.J. Hooker national office to make an ex-gratia payment of $80,000 to the couple involved in the purchase of the Gonzales home.

Ms Meagher welcomed the agency's decision to refund the deposit.

"While it was not required by law, L.J. Hooker has done the decent thing by the purchasers in what were extremely difficult circumstances," she said.

But she said the situation highlighted the need for stronger disclosure requirements on agents.

"No one wants to see a situation like this occur again."

Home buyers are advised to consult a lawyer before purchasing. Find a lawyer using FindLaw's Lawyer Directory.

14 October, 2004

Findlaw

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