Meander Valley Gazette

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Property insurance dispute settled

NewsJoanne Eisemann

Feburary 2019 | Sharon Webb

THE OWNER of Blue Wren Hideaway at Mole Creek has been paid $35,000 in insurance to replace fittings and fixtures allegedly stolen from the property after he bought it. Blue Wren Hideaway became famous Australia-wide when Meander Valley Council sold it to gain $3,500 in rates owed by its former owners whose religious beliefs led them to believe the council was not entitled to demand rates.

The sale also created indignation among Meander Valley residents on behalf of the previous owners: the 2.4 hectare property, possibly worth around $500,000, sold for only $120,000 at auction. When the council put the property on the market, the former owners refused to allow potential buyers to see it; when new owner Geoff Styles entered the house he found many missing fixtures and significant damage created by removal.

New owner Geoff Styles’ insurance company, CGU (operating under Insurance Australia Ltd) refused to cover the missing fittings and fixtures, claiming that Mr Styles did not have proof the items had actually existed. But the Australian Financial Complaints Authority upheld Mr Styles’ claim that his insurance should cover the missing items. Its investigation report into the missing items found that “most likely the items claimed were part of the property purchased on 1 September 2017.

“The available information suggests the property was vacated by the residents shortly prior to 16 October 2017.” At the time Tasmania Police refused to investigate the theft saying it was “a civil matter”; the complaints authority also has no idea who took the items. It commented: “No information is available from the former owners. Whether the items were taken by the former owners or some other person is unclear.”

Mr Styles who previously had claimed a $50,000 loss, said he was satisfied with the outcome: “We didn’t get the full amount we asked for but this goes some way to putting back what was stolen.” Items missing from Blue Wren Hideaway included solar panels and inverter, all light fittings, a combustion stove, a heat pump, a vanity unit, oven and cooktop and built-in cupboards.

The home’s water system was damaged, as were walls, ceilings and floors. The $35,000 paid by the insurance company covered the items stolen but not the damage caused by their removal. After the property was sold for $120,000 and Meander Valley Council deducted the owed rates and the cost of the sale, the remainder of the money was returned to the previous owners.

But the family returned the $105,000 to the council saying it had been a hostile sale and they didn’t wish to collude in it. Mr Styles will now put in a claim to the Supreme Court for some of that money.