Agent in Harcourts exit

HARCOURTS Queensland has called it quits with troubled real estate agent Ben Gough, after complaints by the owners of a Thabeban property.

While the company refused to comment yesterday, a media statement obtained by the NewsMail revealed that Mr Gough's franchise agreement was terminated on Tuesday.

“Over the past two weeks we have attempted to resolve the issue around the property transaction in Bundaberg,” CEO of Harcourts Queensland Aaron Brooks said in the statement.

“We have been working with both Gough and the Batchelors to find a resolution and ensure that the clients are compensated, however we are not confident this will occur and can no longer tolerate Gough's continuing as a franchisee of this group.”

In the document, Mr Brooks said: “We refuse to have the unacceptable behaviour of just one individual reflect poorly on (Harcourts), and therefore made the decision that we could no longer associate ourselves with Ben Gough.

“We acknowledge and sincerely regret the distress this particular incident has caused the clients involved, and will continue to work with them to attempt to achieve a satisfactory solution.”

But Mr Gough said arrangements for the sale were made more than a week ago.

“The contract was terminated in preparation for sale to a new franchisee,” he said.

He described the sale as a “hard but much-needed decision” made to protect the business.

“The accusations and recent coverage on Today Tonight brought undue attention to Harcourts as a brand,” Mr Gough said.

“I can now step aside and defend myself against these attacks and take appropriate action.”

He maintained that all investigations had cleared him of wrong-doing, although the Office of Fair Trading has been unable to comment for privacy reasons.

“I don't believe I should have to pay (a refund) when I have been cleared by all the investigations,” Mr Gough said.

The allegations against Mr Gough were aired in the media two weeks ago by Mackay couple Kylie and Rycki Batchelor, who tried to sell their Thabeban property through his Bundaberg Harcourts franchise earlier this year.

After it failed to sell, Mr Gough offered to buy the property from them and the parties formed the contract for the sale on January 14, but it was not settled until March 27.

Meanwhile, Mr Gough signed a contract to sell the property on February 18, for about $45,000 more than he had arranged to pay.

When the Batchelors' complaints came to light in late September, Harcourts launched an independent investigation into Mr Gough's handling of the sale.

Mr Gough later offered to refund the Batchelors the profit he made from the sale, if the investigation found he was in the wrong.

After the original report aired on Today Tonight last month, Mr Gough said the current affairs program used “totally incorrect” data, and he had not behaved unethically.

Mr Gough said the Thabeban property was never listed for sale, and he was approached privately by a buyer.

He said the market, and renovations he conducted after signing the contract, dictated the increased price.

No further information has been released about the independent investigation.


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