Coolah Home Base Class Action
“The Castle” – Minus the Humour!
The Peoples’ Solicitors are assisting 18 “grey nomads” who pooled their life savings to establish their own retirement community in rural NSW.
Now they risk losing everything.
Support their fight to save their home HERE
In 2012 Graeme Booker and Janet Kelly formed Coolah Home Base Pty Ltd (“CHB”) which bought a caravan park and sold “allotments” to about 20 retirees. Each retiree was issued a share in CHB. Allotments were defined in the Company Constitution as the ‘portion of land including the buildings thereon.’
Booker and Kelly heavily promoted Coolah Home Base at camping and caravan shows as a new concept that offered grey nomads cheap home and land with “real estate security”.
The residents say that ads like these and verbal promises made to them prior to moving into Coolah Home Base, made it clear they were buying a cabin and title to the land on which it stood, as well as a share in the company.
The terms of the contracts which shareholders signed with Coolah Home Base Pty Ltd also confirm that they were being sold “allotments”. Some of these allotments had cabins on them at the time of purchase. Homes were subsequently built on others by the individual residents, some costing over $300,000.
Booker and Kelly were the managers of CHB and also its directors. They collected the site fees (initially $50 p.w.) to cover outgoings and wages, but they refused to give residents/shareholders a proper account as to how their site fees were being spent.
In 2018 shareholders made an application to the Supreme Court for access to CHB’s books, to understand what was happening in the management of CHB.
Booker and Kelly responded by putting the company into administration. They then struck a deal by which in December 2019 CHB Pty Ltd sold the land and business to another company they had formed for the purpose, Coolah Tourist Park.
In December 2019 Booker and Kelly told residents the old site agreements between CHB and the shareholders were terminated, and the residents have to enter new ones, paying $185 per week (three times the existing site fee). If they don’t sign, they will be evicted.
The residents who were sold “real estate security” by Booker and Kelly are now being told by them they never owned the land, Booker and Kelly now own their houses, and the weekly site fee has jumped from $65 to $185.
But, What About Legal protection?
Back in 1999 Parliament enacted the Retirement Villages Act to prevent precisely what has happened to the residents of this retirement village.
The People’s Solicitors asked NSW Fair Trading, as the body responsible for enforcement of the Act, to intervene at CHB. Fair Trading said it’s not a retirement village, so they are not interested. When asked to explain their decision, the Fair Trading officer said “we don't need to give reasons”.
The People’s Solicitors then applied to NCAT for protection under the Retirement Villages Act. After a two year battle, NCAT ruled that CHB is a retirement village, and the old site agreement is enforceable against the “new” owner. That means, for a start, site fees will remain at $64.75 per week, not the $185 the “new” owners are demanding.
Supreme Court Proceedings
The residents also wanted their land and homes back. NCAT has no jurisdiction to decide ownership of real estate, so The People’s Solicitors are also ran a class action in the Supreme Court on behalf of 18 residents.
The residents say they own their land, the sale was unlawful, they want their names put on the title as tenants in common, and they want compensation for the expenses and distress they have suffered for the past year.
In 2022 NSW Supreme Court ruled that Booker and Kelly had "oppressed" the other shareholders and appointed a liquidator but the retirees were ordered to pay over $100,000 legal costs. The liquidator wants another $100,000 plus.
In 2023 the retirees filed an appeal in the NSW Court of Appeal. They were ordered to put up $25,000 security before the appeal can commence. Meanwhile, Booker and Kelly have started suing the retirees for unpaid site fees in NSW Local Court.
No Protection for the Elderly
The People’s Solicitors wrote to the Ageing and Disability Commissioner for assistance with what had become elder abuse.
The outcome of that letter was a phone call saying “Gosh that sounds awful. There’s not much we can do about that. Maybe the Ombudsman can help?”.
It seems there is no legislation to protect the elderly from anything short of criminal assault.
The retirees' futures depend on the up-coming hearing in the NSW Court of Appeal. The residents have set up a Gofundme campaign. Support their fight HERE
Christine and Geoff McMillan outside their home, now under threat