Real-estate agent loses licence over Saanich leaky-condo sale

A Victoria real estate agent is appealing after his licence was suspended for five years and he was ordered to pay more than $32,000 over allegations of conflict of interest and taking advantage of a mentally ill woman when he arranged for her to buy a leaky condo.

Jim Parsons, of One Per Cent Realty Ltd., had his licence suspended for five years in an April 27 decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay expenses of $22,487.

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Parsons acted as the woman’s agent when she purchased a condo on Cloverdale Avenue in February 2007. His son represented the seller. Then, in the fall of 2007, the woman was hit with a special levy of $59,598 from the condo association to repair the building.

The committee ruled that Parsons failed to act in the best interests of his client by not disclosing that his son represented the seller, not revealing that there was an engineer’s report that addressed the issue of water leaking into the condo, not requesting a home inspection as part of the offer to purchase and not making sufficient inquiries about his client’s ability to conduct business when he knew or ought to have known that his client’s ability was in question.

“The committee found that Mr. Parsons’ conduct was of an extremely low standard,” the disciplinary hearing committee wrote in its decision.

“His callous disregard for his client’s interests, his dishonesty, and his failure to meet even the basic requirements of a licensee were independently deserving of a severe penalty.”

According to a 29-page decision from the Real Estate Council, which did not name the woman, Parsons knew his client was vulnerable because of her mental illness.

He also failed to draw her attention to documents and engineering reports showing the leaky condition of the building, despite her stated desire to not buy into a leaky condo building.

The real estate council reported he had failed to reveal to the woman that his son was acting for the seller of the condo unit, which placed him in a conflict of interest.

Parsons, 69, has appealed to the provincial government’s Financial Services Tribunal.

“This whole thing comes down to ‘she said’ and ‘I said,’ and they took her word,” Parsons said.

Parsons maintains the conflict-of-interest allegation is unfounded, and said his relationship with his son provided him and the woman with some information that allowed her to “low ball” on her offer. She paid $180,000 when the asking price was $186,000.

Parsons also insisted he didn’t know the woman was mentally ill until days after the offer on the Cloverdale condo had been accepted. When he telephoned to remind her he needed a deposit cheque to close the deal on the Cloverdale condo, she told him she was in the Eric Martin Pavilion, which houses mental-health services at Royal Jubilee Hospital. His assistant was sent over to pick up the cheque.

Parsons said it was his understanding that the woman was depressed, and depression is no reason to refuse to sell her a property.

Victoria lawyer Mike Mulligan said the question of whether the woman suffered a mental illness, or Parsons knew about it, is just one element of the case.

More serious for Mulligan, who had no involvement in the case but read the decision along with appropriate legislation, was the possibility for conflict of interest.

He said real estate agents, like doctors and lawyers, have a responsibility to do what’s best for their clients. There should be no other impulse at work.

“It’s like, I can’t be your lawyer if you were suing my son,” Mulligan said. “It’s just not on.”

Other serious aspects for Mulligan include the woman’s assertion that she wasn’t made aware of engineering reports that revealed the likelihood the condo was leaky.

Mulligan said the appeal will not be a new trial — it will review matters such as whether Parsons had a chance to speak, or whether the real estate council made its decision based on evidence presented at the hearing.

“It’s not just a do-over, where you get to go in and try to persuade someone else to believe you,” Mulligan said.

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