MONCTON, N.B. – Two New Brunswick real estate agents have lost their licences after taking “outrageous and egregious advantage” of a vulnerable senior, the provincial regulator said in a scathing decision released Wednesday.
Tanya Hannah and Maurice Poirier, owners of Absolute Realty, took “extreme financial advantage” of a senior by purchasing his home for about $17,000 through a series of transactions, said Alaina Nicholson, acting director of consumer affairs with the Financial and Consumer Services Commission.
The home was initially valued at over $300,000.
“It is clear that they gained substantially from the transaction” while the senior “lost his home, his only asset, and was provided with nothing more than a year-and-half’s rent,” she said in a 30-page decision that found Hannah and Poirier were unsuitable to be licensed under the Real Estate Agents Act.
The case highlights the insidious nature of financial abuse against the elderly, commission CEO Rick Hancox said in an interview.
“At the end of the day, the senior got $17,000 for his house.” he said.
In 2013, the homeowner hired Hannah and Poirier to sell his Moncton-area home for $324,900, according to the regulator’s decision. After several months on the market, the agents agreed to purchase the property under Hannah’s name for $238,000.
The real estate agents, then affiliated with Century 21, negotiated a renovation credit of $138,000, knocking the purchase price of the home to $100,000.
Hancox said “at a stretch” the agents only spent about $25,000 renovating the home, which was described in the original listing as “well maintained.”
But rather than pay the homeowner the balance, the agents obtained an interest-free loan from him and agreed to pay him $1,000 a month. Although the agents paid the senior’s rent of $670, only once did they deposit the difference of $330 in his bank account, the regulator’s decision said.
It also appears the real estate agents financially benefited from an additional mortgage they obtained on the property, the decision added.
Meanwhile, legal actions by the public trustee show the senior had named Hannah and Poirier as power of attorney, giving them authority to manage his affairs.
The senior had also appointed Poirier as the executor, trustee and sole beneficiary of his will, with Hannah named as alternate executor, trustee and beneficiary.
The case was uncovered when the senior was admitted to hospital with diminished mental capacity.
The province’s public trustee took over his affairs, and upon discovering the apparent financial abuse, referred part of the case to the regulator.
In response to proceedings against them, Poirier and Hannah said they took the New Brunswick man to various appointments and helped him with errands around Moncton. They also said they cleaned his apartment, brought him groceries and contacted his doctor when his health appeared to deteriorate.
But the regulator found the real estate agents “befriended a vulnerable senior with an admitted drug problem and what doctors reported was limited capacity,” Nicholson said in her decision.
“They struck a deal with him that was one-sided and completely self-serving. They have taken complete financial advantage” of the senior, she said.
The regulator revoked both their licences and stated that neither can apply for a new licence for one year.
The public trustee has launched a civil action against Hannah to recoup money owed to the senior.
— By Brett Bundale in Halifax