Why hardworking couple Jess and Jackie Morecroft are being forced out of their Gold Coast house
A couple has suffered another devastating blow when the government appealed a decision to pay them $2.7 million in damages after the home they paid for was snatched from them.
Jess and Jackie Morecroft are caught in a five-year legal nightmare after buying a house without knowing it still belonged to someone else.
The couple paid more than $1.2 million for the property on Mermaid Beach, on the Gold Coast, at auction in March 2018.
But previous owner Hind Issa, 83, initiated legal action in September 2018 to hold it – resulting in a legal battle that has lasted more than five years.
The Queensland Supreme Court ruled last February that while the Morecrofts had no legal claim to the house, they were entitled to recover its current value of $2.7 million from the lenders who wrongly sold it to them.
Jess and Jackie Morecroft (pictured) spent five years in a legal nightmare after buying a house without knowing it still belonged to someone else
The couple paid more than $1.2 million for the property on Mermaid Beach (pictured), on the Gold Coast, at auction in March 2018
At a hearing last April, the court said the Queensland government should be held liable for damages because the Morecrofts were victims of a fraudulent sale.
But the government has since appealed the ruling.
Ms Morecroft said the decision shattered the couple after they worked so hard to break free from the dodgy sale.
“Having someone appeal that decision is absolutely devastating for us and our future, we haven’t been able to plan anything for five years,” she told Sunrise on Friday.
Her husband also issued a desperate appeal to the state government to withdraw.
“Put yourself in our shoes, we’re just trying to get by, we’re honest and friendly people and we haven’t set out to do anything wrong here, we’ve just bought a house,” said Mr Morecroft.
He explained that the Queensland Land Titles Act has a legal regime that protects victims of fraud – so if someone loses a property, the state should compensate them.
“That was set up a long time ago to protect people like us and the government is just ignoring that law – they argue over all sorts of technicalities,” he added.
The house is a prime piece of real estate as it is walking distance to the beach and has increased in value to over $2.7 million.
It was sold at a mortgage auction, which is when a property goes up for sale because the owner is unable to pay their mortgage.
The Supreme Court ruled in February 2023 that Ms. Issa was still the rightful owner after she claimed the mortgage was taken out by a relative who forged her signature.
The court heard that Ms. Issa’s relative applied for a loan, forged her signature to guarantee the house, and then defaulted.
When the lenders seized the house, Ms. Issa filed a caveat, which is a claim to the Land Titles Office, intended to warn the public that there is a legal interest in the property.
Negotiations between the company that borrowed the money — described in court documents as a “lender of last resort” — and Ms. Issa led to the caveat being dropped in exchange for $40,000.
The Morecrofts, unaware of this, subsequently settled the contract on the property on June 1, 2018 and proceeded to transfer title to their names.
But they were unable to do so because a second caveat had been placed by Ms Issa, who claimed the house was ‘fraudulently mortgaged’.
She also reported the alleged fraud to the police.
The Supreme Court ruled in February that the home’s mortgage had been “obtained by defrauding another person.”
The court also heard that the lenders were “completely inadequate” in their efforts to verify whether or not Ms Issa had agreed to the collateral on her home.
Ms Morecroft said the Queensland government’s decision to appeal the High Court’s decision shattered the couple after working so hard to break away from the dodgy sale (pictured, the Gold Coast home)
The court ruled that the house was still owned by Ms Issa, who has Alzheimer’s disease and was represented in court by her adult daughter.
“I think it’s just been shown to us, you can buy a house at auction, you can settle for that house… you can pay for that house and you still might not get that house,” Mr Morecroft told the ABC last April.
The couple has already spent $300,000 in legal fees and was concerned that taking more legal action to recover their money could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
The Department of Justice and the Attorney General of Queensland were approached by Daily Mail Australia for comment.