Case study: Financial abuse

Seniors Rights 7Rosa

Facts

Rosa’s son Mark was living in Australia with his wife and suggested that Rosa move to Australia to live with them in their home. She sold her home and many of her belongings and used what she had left over from the sale of her home to build an extension on her son’s property where she could live. Rosa did not receive independent legal advice about this arrangement. Her name was not put onto the title of the property and there was no agreement in place about the details of what Rosa would receive in exchange for the improvement she had made to the property.

Mark and his family were very busy and Rosa was left to herself. It was challenging being in a new country with a new language, and driving on the other side of the road made getting around difficult. She found herself to be very lonely. Her relationship with her son and his family deteriorated over time.

Nearly a year ago, Mark lost some investments that he had been relying on and they were struggling to meet their mortgage repayments. Six months later Mark told Rosa that they had to sell the property and downsize and there would be no room in the new house for Rosa. They refused to repay more than Rosa’s initial investment in the property even though Rosa had spent that amount 15 years before and the property had appreciated greatly in value over that time.

Action

Rosa engaged the assistance of Seniors Rights Victoria together with advice from a barrister through the Victorian Bar Pro Bono Scheme. A caveat was lodged on the title of Mark’s house. Mark and his wife had to negotiate with Rosa to have the caveat removed before the house could be sold. As a result of the negotiations, Rosa received enough money from the sale of the property to secure an independent living unit. The unit had been found as a result of collaboration between Seniors Rights Victoria and a community housing organisation.

Outcome

Rosa is happy in the new unit, particularly as she was able to stay in the same neighbourhood and keep her cat. She hopes to be able to rebuild her relationship with her son and his family over time.