Property developer who was handed a $1.7m Sydney home for FREE under bizarre ‘squatter’s rights’ law is set to cash in as he puts the property up for sale
- Bill Gertos came across the property in Ashbury, Sydney’s inner-west, in 1998
- He moved in after learning an elderly woman who previously lived their died
- Mr Gertos claimed the $1.7million home under bizarre ‘squatter’s rights’ law
- The property developer has now put the three-bedroom home up for sale
A property developer who was handed a Sydney home worth an estimated $1.7million for free under bizarre ‘squatter’s rights’ laws has put the property up for sale.
Bill Gertos came across the freestanding house in Ashbury in the city’s inner-west in 1998 when he was visiting a client.
After learning the elderly woman who was living in the home had died, Mr Gertos decided to claim the three-bedroom property as his own.
A property developer who was handed a $1.7million home for free under bizarre ‘squatter’s rights’ law has put the property up for sale
Bill Gertos came across the home in 1998 when he was visiting a client on Ashbury Street in Sydney’s inner-west
But instead of doing so by traditional means, Mr Gertos simply changed the locks and began renovating.
He was awarded ownership of the house this year after winning a case in the Supreme Court.
Mr Gertos claimed the home under a law which states a ‘squatter’ can be deemed the owner of a property if they live there for more than 12 years.
The legal battle stems back to November 2017, when the Downie family learnt their relative Henry Thompson Downie had bought the home in 1927.
Mr Downie’s 95-year-old daughter Joyce was the last surviving member of the previous owner’s immediate family, and her nephew Grahame said at the time the decision to grant ownership to Mr Gertos should be overturned.
‘This is the family home and it’s lost, so it’s pretty devastating really. We didn’t know that our grandfather owned [the house] until a policeman knocked on our door in November 2017,’ Graeme told A Current Affair in March.
Mr Henry Downie was the last owner of the property. His descendants (pictured) withdrew their appeal against the lower court decision on Tuesday
The family claimed to be the rightful owners and applied for an injunction, arguing Mr Gertos’ acquisition of the property was not ‘open’, a criteria stipulated in the conditions for squatters rights.
Mr Gertos said he offered the family $300,000 to drop their claim of ownership over the house.
‘I was flexible and I do wish this matter resolved, but unfortunately they did not see it that way,’ he said.
He said without his intervention the house would have become a ‘rat-infested squalor’.
In June this year, Mr Gertos won a Supreme Court case to keep the home.
The Malleny Street house is now listed with Mint Property Agents principal Paul Errichiello.
He was awarded ownership of the Ashbury house this year, after successfully winning a case in the Supreme Court
Set in a quiet cul de sac, the ‘Federation façade’ has refurbished interiors and the scope to extend.
It’s closely located to parks, schools as well as Ashfield and Canterbury train stations.
Mr Errichiello declined to comment on the circumstances of the sale when contacted by The Daily Telegraph.
But property records reveal the savvy developer was trying to sell the house for about $1.45million.
WHAT ARE ‘SQUATTER’S RIGHTS’?
The time period for how long a squatter must be living on a property before having rights to it differs across states and territories in Australia.
In South Australia squatting is illegal, but squatters can apply for ownership if they can prove they have lived in the property for 15 years without the consent of the owner.
In Victoria, squatters can apply for ownership after living in a house for 15 years, while in Queensland, NSW and Western Australia the time frame is 12 years.
The law dates back to 1900 in NSW, and was originally aimed at communities where a large number of people were illiterate, law expert Cathy Sherry told the ABC.