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11-81MR Property developer enters into enforceable undertaking providing compensation for vendor finance borrowers
ASIC has accepted an enforceable undertaking (EU) from a Toongabbie (NSW) based property developer, Mr Bhart Bhushan, and his company Universal Property Group Pty Ltd (UPG), following an investigation into alleged unconscionable conduct in connection with their lending practices.
As part of the EU, UPG and Mr Bhushan have agreed to a scheme whereby vendor finance borrowers – who were clients of UPG or Mr Bhushan – will be entitled to seek compensation if they believe they were victims of unconscionable conduct.
The compensation scheme will involve UPG and Mr Bhushan writing to clients and providing them with an opportunity to provide information in support of a compensation claim. UPG is also required to appoint an independent person - to be approved by ASIC - to consider any compensation claims that UPG has rejected.
UPG has operated a residential property development business from 1997, mostly in western Sydney. Mr Bhushan is the sole director and secretary of UPG.
From 2004 until mid-October 2009, UPG offered vendor finance to people who purchased property from UPG and associated entities. Mr Bhushan met with prospective purchasers and made oral inquiries about the person's income, assets, and liabilities. Mr Bhushan accepted the information he was given as true and accurate but neither he nor UPG took steps to independently verify the information provided by prospective purchasers about their financial situation.
Many of the purchasers were immigrants – from Sudan or the Philippines – who came from non-English speaking backgrounds.
UPG stopped offering vendor finance in October 2009.
ASIC's investigation identified concerns relating to the conduct of UPG and Mr Bhushan, including:
- whether UPG made adequate inquiries as to the borrower's or any of the guarantor's financial situation;
- UPG's reliance on the borrowers' assertions as to their financial situation and its failure to test or verify independently the borrowers' assertions as to their income, expenses, assets and liabilities;
- whether the borrowers understood to a sufficient degree the terms and conditions of the vendor finance loan in circumstances where UPG knew or ought to have known that some borrowers had a poor understanding of spoken and written English and/or little financial acuity;
- UPG's offer of vendor finance to some borrowers who were recipients of Centrelink benefits;
- UPG's offer of vendor finance on promotional terms, including the offer of capped repayments, contributions to the borrower's first mortgage loan, and lump sum cash rebates.
Further details relating to the compensation scheme are contained in the EU, which is available from ASIC's website. ASIC accepted the EU as an alternative to commencing court proceedings.
ASIC acknowledges the assistance provided by the Mt Druitt & Area Community Legal Centre Inc in this matter.
On 1 July 2010 ASIC became the national regulator for consumer credit and finance broking, taking over from the states and territories. More information can be found on ASIC's credit homepage at www.asic.gov.au/credit
For further information:
ASIC Media Unit
Telephone: 1300 208 215