Red tape mix-up forces neighbours to fight to trade homes
FOUR Bowen homeowners living next door to each other are facing an uphill battle and legal costs after receiving news that they've technically been living in the wrong house.
After purchasing their first home at the listed address of 82 Powell St, Bowen, couple Eddie and Lyn Jones were confident they'd got what they paid for.
It wasn't until 2012 when they were lodging an objection notice against a proposed block of units being built next door that they received some surprising news.
"When we contacted the council to get the forms to put in the objection we were told we couldn't because we didn't live next door to 84 Powell St even though we were 82," Mrs Jones said.
After approaching the local government to clear up the issue, the couple turned to a local councillor, who vouched for them, which allowed the form to be submitted.
The confusion led to an investigation into the matter, prompting council to solve the issue by renumbering the streets.
But Mrs Jones said it didn't fix the issue.
"The way they solved the problem was wrong because they renumbered the street so it went 78, 82, 80, 84," Mrs Jones said.
"They told us that if we're getting mail to the right address then it's all sorted.
"The problem was all it did was change the numbering but it didn't change the titles and it's the titles that's the problem."
Six years later history repeated itself with Mr and Mrs Jones' next door neighbours Jeff and Karen Ford, who purchased a home at (what they thought was) 80 Powell St.
"When Karen and I purchased the property last year we needed to do some work which required a building application, but we couldn't lodge one because it wasn't legally our property," Mr Ford, who purchased his home in 2018, said.
"Lyn and Eddie had to sign a consent form to allow us to build on our own property because as far as the official titles are concerned ... it's theirs.
"So we're spending a lot of money on a property that technically we don't own."
After looking into the history of the street, Mr Ford said that 80 and 82 Powell St were once a combined block of land. However the property was subdivided into two individual blocks in 1922, which is where he believes an error has occurred.
"Because the literacy wasn't so good back then, we think the owners at the time may have taken the wrong properties by accident," he said.
"And because it occurred 100 years ago, every time the property has been sold since the error has been repeated."
In a letter penned to Member for Burdekin Dale Last, Mr and Mrs Jones requested the State Government's land office and solicitors take on the case of transferring the titles at no cost to the homeowners.
After lobbying for the couple Mr Last was informed that the state was not responsible for a human error.
He said it defies logic to think that this mix-up has gone undetected for decades.
"The Queensland Law society needs to have a good long look at this because obviously it should've been picked up," Mr Last said. "Certainly they need to seek legal advice regarding this mix up, but it's now going to cost both parties a significant sum of money to rectify through no fault of their own."
Both couples have now been saddled with the bill for the transfer, which is a legal matter that could cost thousands of dollars.
"It's not as simple as just swapping numbers, it's got to go through a legal process," Mrs Jones said.
"With stamp duty included it could be upwards of $6000."
Mrs Jones said she would like to think firms would have a generous approach with this sort of thing, but she doesn't believe it will be the case.
Mr Ford said the mix-up, which literally has the two couples paying each other's rates, is unprecedented.
"Our solicitor said she's handled thousands of cases and said it's the first time she's seen something like this. It's a rare thing to occur," he said.