Agents are required to disclose the history of the property, even if a murder took place in a house they are selling. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this month gained power to fine agents up to $1.1 million for misleading their clients. Under the new laws, if properties such as the Glen Iris townhouse where Margaret Wales-King and her husband Paul King were bludgeoned to death or the Mornington home where John Sharpe killed his wife Anna Kemp and daughter Gracie with a speargun were to come on the market, potential buyers would have to be told that murder had occurred in the house.
Agents failing to disclose a property’s past to a buyer could face a million-dollar fine. Concealing knowledge of noisy neighbours or barking dogs will also attract penalties. The changes came into effect on July 1 when the ACCC merged state fair trading laws into a federal consumer protection law. Real Estate Institute of Victoria chief executive Enzo Raimondo said there had previously been no penalty for failing to disclose a murder house when asked.
He said tightened disclosure laws would give consumers more confidence when buying homes. “It’s about being fair and honest to everybody and if the potential purchaser has asked a direct question the agent should say: ‘Yes that is the property where the murder happened’, if the agent knows about it,” Mr Raimondo said.
There had never been a case in Victoria where an agent had failed to disclose a murder when asked, he said. In 2004, two Sydney agents were fined $20,000 after concealing from a buyer the fact that a house had been the scene of a triple murder committed by Sef Gonzales.