May 19, 2022

A feisty consumer advocate warns victims of a rent-for-life scam will rise up and demand a royal commission if not compensated.

The high-profile advocate for victims of a rent-for-life scam that left retirees “in tents and couch surfing” has blasted the corporate regulator for “abject negligence”, demanding Treasury compensate them and threatening to rally for a royal commission if it does not.

Sterling First marketed itself as pairing up “smart property investors that are looking to get a better rental return with retirees that are looking to sign a long-term lease”.

Those duped by the scheme sold their homes to free locked-up capital, then moved into rental properties with the expectation they would stay there for the rest of their life.

But Sterling Group and Sterling Income Trust went into liquidation in 2019 – allegedly after trading while insolvent for months – and many of the lessees were forced out while others fought to keep a roof over their heads.

Feisty consumer advocate Denise Brailey gave evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, saying there were multiple red flags that should have been acted upon sooner by not just the Australian Securities and Investments Commission but also Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

The debate around what could have been done sooner has centred around whether the scheme was deemed an investment, but Ms Brailey said that was not how the retirees saw it and almost all of them did not…

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