Singapore property agent fined, suspended for misconduct in dealing with senile seller

PropNex agent Ng Ser Leong, also known as Power James, has been fined and suspended for misconduct. PHOTO: PropNex Facebook page

A Singapore property agent has been fined and suspended seven months for misconduct while representing an elderly couple in the sale of their HDB flat.

In a statement on Friday (22 September), the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) said that its disciplinary committee had imposed the sentence on PropNex Realty property agent Ng Ser Leong, 44, for two charges of breaches to CEA’s code of ethics and professional client care.

The committee fined Ng $3,000 for each charge and also imposed a 7-month and 4-month suspension on his registration to conduct estate agency work for the respective charges. The suspension periods will run concurrently from 19 October.

The CEA said that Ng, also known as ‘Power James’, had “failed to ascertain if the elderly female seller was fully aware of the nature and consequences of the sale of the flat before proceeding with the sale”. The elderly woman is illiterate, suffers from an advanced stage of dementia and is residing in a purpose built home for people with dementia. She and her husband are both in their 80s.

Despite knowing that the female seller is senile, Ng visited her at the home and obtained her thumbprints on the Option to Purchase for the sale of the flat, an estate agency agreement and an exclusive estate agency agreement.

The estate agency agreement is a binding contract between a consumer and the property agency for the performance of estate agency work. It sets out the agent’s scope and duties, the terms and conditions involved and the amount of commission payable to the property agency upon completion of the transaction.

Furthermore, Ng obtained the woman’s thumbprints on these documents where information and details were left blank. Key information on the Option to Purchase such as the option date, purchase price, and buyer’s name were not filled in.

Background to the case

Around August 2015, a friend of an elderly man approached Ng to assist in the sale of the man’s flat. Ng subsequently discovered that the flat was co-owned by the elderly man and his wife. The elderly man then informed Ng that his wife had been residing in an old folks’ home in Pasir Ris for the past 10 years.

Ng explained to the elderly man, who has hearing difficulties and converses mainly in Cantonese, that the man and his wife would have to sign the relevant documents since they were joint owners of the flat. He added that the elderly man’s wife’s thumbprint would suffice to proceed with the sale.

On 10 August, 2015, Ng accompanied the elderly man and his friend to the old folks’ home to obtain the elderly man’s wife’s signature. During the visit, Ng approached an employee of the home to help him obtain the woman’s thumbprint on the transaction documents.

The elderly couple’s flat was then advertised on various online property portals on 13 August. By 15 August, a buyer agreed to purchase the flat for $360,000. Two days later, the elderly man signed the relevant documents.

On 29 August, the buyer signed the Option to Purchase and passed a cheque for $4,000 to the elderly male seller to exercise the option. Around 1 September, the elderly man seller had a fall and was hospitalised. His children found out about the ongoing sale of the flat when they visited their father. The sale was subsequently aborted.

CEA was alerted to Ng’s actions when the elderly couple’s son lodged a complaint against Ng on 22 September.