Housing dispute may go to WA Supreme Court

More than 100 retirees invested their life savings with Sterling First property group before it collapsed in May last year.
More than 100 retirees invested their life savings with Sterling First property group before it collapsed in May last year.

A DISPUTE stemming from the collapse of a property scheme, which has left vulnerable retirees facing potential homelessness, may be headed for the WA Supreme Court.

More than 100 retirees invested their life savings with Sterling First property group before it collapsed in May last year, including 12 properties that were mortgaged to Commco Super.

The matter between the tenants and Commco Super was listed for a trial in Perth Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, but lawyers for the tenants said they had applied to have the case heard in the Supreme Court.

The trial was then adjourned pending the hearing of the application in the Supreme Court.

A date is yet to be set for that hearing.

Outside court, Commco Super director Peter Clark told reporters he could not see a settlement happening at this point.

“These aged pensioners that are living in these places have been living there rent-free for about eight months now,” he said.

“They’re not even paying any water, council, building insurance, land tax – absolutely nothing. (They) haven’t paid a cent.

“It’s costing us $35,000 a month just to leave them there and we still can’t get an answer.”

Retirees who lost money in the Sterling First fiasco held a protest outside Mandurah Magistrates’ Court last year.

Mr Clark said the government should have stepped in to help.

On behalf of the tenants, Alan Fardoe said people had invested their life savings in Sterling First’s scheme, believing it would cover their leases for 40 years.

“To now find ourselves in this position, facing homelessness, is incredibly terrifying and distressing,” he said in a statement.

“We have been left with nothing. Our life savings are gone and at a time when we should be settling into retirement, we are now fighting to keep a roof over our heads.

“Many of us are already unwell with some suffering terminal illnesses. The impact this situation is having on our health and wellbeing is detrimental.”

Barrister Ian Neil SC said his “vulnerable” clients had done nothing wrong but trust.

“Many vulnerable retirees have not only lost their life savings but now face homelessness after being caught up in the collapse of Sterling First property group and its failed ‘rent for life’ scheme,” he said.

“We have succeeded in having this matter adjourned in order to give our clients a fair opportunity to prepare their defences, which we hope will be heard in the Supreme Court.

“My clients are retirees who have done nothing wrong but trust.

They were led to believe their investment in these lifetime leases would cover their rent for 40 years. What has happened to these people is wrong, and the focus must be on making sure justice is done.

“What has happened to these people is wrong and the focus must be on making sure justice is done.”

More news

More Sterling First investors facing eviction

‘We’ve lost $150k’: investors fight eviction