Real Estate

Queensland government must pay $2.7m to couple who lost house sold under fraudulent circumstances, court rules

The Queensland government has lost its bid to avoid paying $2.7m to a couple who lost their house after it was sold to them under fraudulent circumstances.

The Queensland court of appeal’s ruling handed down on Friday potentially ends an almost six-year ordeal for Gold Coast couple Jess and Jackie Morecroft, who lost their dream home that was secretly tied up in a feud within the original owner’s family.

Jess Morecroft said outside court that the result was “unbelievable” and Jackie Morecroft said she was “incredibly relieved”.

“It’s been such a long six years and to have the original decision confirmed unanimously was just enormous,” she said.

The Morecrofts bought the three-bedroom house in the Gold Coast suburb of Mermaid Beach for $1.265m via a mortgagee auction in March 2018.

When the Morecrofts went to transfer the property title to their names, they found out the property had a caveat placed on it by its owner who claimed the house had been “fraudulently mortgaged by criminals”.

Supreme court Justice Lincoln Crowley in February 2023 awarded the Morecrofts $2,751,666.32 for damages for breach of contract.

Justice Crowley found the Queensland government was liable to pay compensation under a section of the Land Titles Act that protects people “deprived of an interest in a lot” in circumstances such as fraud or incorrect titles.

During court hearings, the state government denied any liability to pay compensation to the Morecrofts, arguing their interest in the house had never existed, had no value and the other parties in the case were responsible for any losses.

In May 2023 the government filed an appeal to dismiss the order for compensation to the Morecrofts, arguing they were not protected by the Land Titles Act.

The appeal was dismissed on Friday and the government was ordered to pay costs to the Morecrofts.

The government has the option to seek an appeal to the high court.

This story was amended on 10 February 2024 to clarify the court that delivered the ruling is called the Queensland court of appeal.


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