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Discipline and enforcement 

The disciplinary and offence provisions of the Conveyancers Licensing Act 2003 empower the Director General to, among other things, investigate complaints, initiate show cause proceedings, suspend licences and issue penalty notices for breaches of the legislation. The Act also empowers the Director General to investigate and take action against unlicensed persons conducting a conveyancing business.

Grounds for commencing disciplinary proceedings include a breach of the legislation or rules of conduct, for example, a failure to account for money held on trust, or failure to comply with a condition of a licence or to properly supervise employees. 

Grounds for disciplinary action 

The Director General may take disciplinary action against licensed conveyancers who, among other things:

  • contravene the Conveyancers Licensing Act or Conveyancers Licensing Regulation 2006, including the rules of conduct
  • breach a licence condition
  • become disqualified from holding a licence or certificate
  • cease to be ‘fit and proper’ for the duties of a licensed conveyancer
  • fail to pay a required contribution to the compensation fund
  • fail to comply with an undertaking made to, or a direction given by, the Director General
  • fail to pay a fine imposed by the Director General following disciplinary action
  • hold a licence that was obtained fraudulently or by mistake.

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Disciplinary procedures 

Penalty notices

Penalty notices are a quick and efficient means of dealing with minor offences. NSW Fair Trading can serve a penalty notice on a person if there is evidence that they have committed an offence under the Act or regulations.

If the person does not wish to have the matter determined by a court, they may pay the amount of the penalty within the time specified in the notice. Payment of the penalty is not regarded as an admission of liability.

The aim of the penalty notice scheme is to encourage changes in a licensee’s conduct to achieve compliance with the laws. Penalty notices are generally issued in response to offences of a minor or technical nature. Circumstances where stronger disciplinary action would be more appropriate might include repeat or deliberate offences or behaviour that has caused serious detriment to consumers.

Penalty notice offences and penalty amounts are prescribed in Schedule 4 of the Conveyancers Licensing Regulation 2006. 

Show cause notices

The Director General is able to initiate disciplinary action by issuing a ‘show cause notice’ where there are grounds for taking disciplinary action against a person. 

Show cause notices:

  • are issued in writing
  • give the person at least 14 days to respond
  • describe the alleged conduct for which the action is proposed to be taken.

A show cause notice gives the person the opportunity to make an oral or written submission to the Director General demonstrating the reasons why that person believes that the proposed disciplinary action should not be taken. A person to whom a show cause notice has been issued is able to seek legal assistance in the preparation of a submission.

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Disciplinary actions 

Where there are grounds for disciplinary action, the Director General can take the following actions:

  • caution or reprimand
  • give a direction – an instruction to take a particular action within a specified time
  • undertakings – a direction requiring the person to agree to operate in a certain manner
  • monetary penalty – impose a penalty of no more than $11,000 for an individual, and $22,000 for a corporation
  • licence condition – impose a condition on the licence, for example, a condition that prevents the holder from performing certain functions
  • licence suspension – suspend a licence for a period no longer than the unexpired term of the licence
  • licence cancellation
  • disqualification – declare a person as disqualified from holding a licence/certificate under the Act, either permanently or for a set period of time
  • disqualification from management – disqualify a person from being involved in directing, managing or conducting the business of a licensee
  • public warnings – where urgent action is needed to protect consumers from significant loss or harm, the Director General may issue, where public risk is immediate, a public warning alerting consumers to the risks of dealing with a particular person
  • appoint managers and receivers – a manager can be appointed to carry on the business of an agent whose licence has been suspended or cancelled or who is no longer able to properly manage the business, to prevent disadvantage to existing clients. Also, in a range of cases, including where a licence has been suspended or cancelled, or where a failure to account is suspected, the Director General may apply to the Supreme Court to appoint a receiver.

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