The Sydney property market might be falling, but it’s still TOUGH you guys, a lot of us are probably sitting there assuming we’ll never own our own homes unless we marry rich. But Sydney property developer Bill Gertos has proven there’s another way: squatting. He just won the rights to an estimated $1.6 million Inner West home after he found it empty and rented it out for 2 whole years.
So the story goes, Guertos came across the house back in 1998 while visiting a client on the same street in Ashbury. Seeing that it was falling apart somewhat, not surprising as it had sat empty since its last tenant had passed away earlier that year, he helped himself in through the broken back door to check it out. As you do.
He changed the locks, dropped a total of $143,000 on doing it up over a couple of years, and rented that bad boy out like it ain’t no thing.
A few years later in 2017 he applied to officially be named the landowner under a thing known as the Real Property Act, the one that lets squatters take ownership as long as they tick all the boxes.
Understandably, the family of Henry Thompson Downie aka the registered owner, who passed away in 1947 without a will, had a thing or two to say about it. His daughter and two grandchildren challenged Gertos’ claim, saying they had no choice but to leave the house sometime after World War II because of white ants.
Turns out they should’ve braved the ants and swung by from time to time, because the New South Wales Supreme Court agreed with Gertos. According to the ABC, the judge felt putting money into the property and having tenants living in the house was enough to satisfy ‘adverse possession’, or squatting laws.
“I am comfortably satisfied that since about late 1998 Mr Gertos has been in factual possession of the land with the intention of possessing the land.”
This is still one of the strangest things to me. Imagine buying a house and having someone just sneak it out from under you? Then again, imagine owning a house and literally never visiting it?Image: Domain.com.au