Meander Valley Gazette

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A sour taste for new homeowner

NewsJoanne EisemannComment

May 2018 | Sharon Webb

THE BUYER of a Mole Creek property auctioned by Meander Valley Council because its owners would not pay rates has said he had been “gutted” to find $50,000 of fittings and fixtures ripped out of the building.

Geoffrey Styles, who bought Blue Wren Hideaway at 36 South Mole Creek Rd, said when he took over the property in October 2017 all light fittings, vanities, rangehoods, ovens, cooktops and heaters had been taken.

“Even toilet roll holders were gone, as well as a combustion stove needing three people to move it, 13 solar panels, an inverter, and the water pump,” he said.

“What they couldn’t get out they damaged; the water pipe was cut. There was a level of viciousness in what they did.”

Police maintain the theft is not in their jurisdiction; Inspector Scott Flude of Deloraine Police maintained at the time it was a civil matter.

More recently, Commander Brett Smith of northern district police commented: “It is a civil matter. The matter was reported to police but there was no evidence of a criminal offence.”

In addition, Mr Styles’ insurance company, CGU, will not pay out on the stolen goods because there is no police report. It argued the house was inhabited by “tenants” at the time, even though those tenants were the Beerepoot family who had owned the property and were entitled to live there during the 45-day settlement period.

The insurance matter is now being considered by the Financial Ombudsman Service Australia; Mr Styles’ insurance broker, John Wilkinson from Ruralco, is currently waiting on an opinion on the matter from the service’s case manager.

“This is a unique circumstance, an anomaly, and I believe Geoff has been poorly treated. The insurance company’s arguments around the ownership of this property are against the insurance company code of good faith,” he said.

Fanny Beerepoot said she knew nothing about the missing fixtures: “It’s an issue between the Meander Valley Council and the people who bought the property,” she said.

In the meantime, Mr Styles and his partner Dorothy Lowe are preparing the property’s four accommodation units for tourists, replacing the missing equipment and adding elegant furnishings to the rooms.

Mr Styles is Tasmanian and, at the time the 2.4 hectare Beerepoot family home auction, he lived in Bridport but was travelling interstate in his motor home.

He said he heard about the 1st September 2017 auction on a radio program by shock jock John Laws, decided to put in a phone bid, and bought it for $120,000.

The low price shocked locals who knew the value was much higher; the Beerepoots bought it for $130,000 in 1999. In 2012 the government land valuation was $65,000 and the capital value $320,000.

The auction reserve price of just $20,000 was calculated to cover the Beerepoot family’s $3,500 council rates debt plus auction costs, which Mayor Craig Perkins estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

Mr Styles said: “I was half way between Bendigo and Ararat when I got a phone call from the real estate agent saying: You’ve got yourself a property.”

“It was unbelievable; I hadn’t even arranged finance.

“It was like winning Tattslotto, but anyone in Australia could have done it. About 20 people were registered to bid and I’d been prepared to go up to $220,000.”

But on 16th October when Mr Styles arrived to take over the property things turned sour fast.

There was no key handover and after paying a locksmith to get in, he found the interior ripped out, damaged walls, wires hanging out of the ceilings and masking tape notes on power points saying ‘Do not turn on’.

“Some people said: Well, you got a good deal,” Mr Styles said. “But that isn’t the point, is it? When you buy a property at auction you expect to take it over with its fittings and fixtures.”

Blue Wren Hideaway is an attractive house tucked in under the Western Tiers; its elaborate gardens are stunning and Geoffrey Styles and Dorothy Lowe know their future guests will love it.

“It’s been a nightmare, but we are working on getting the accommodation up and running. We are moving forward,” Geoff said.