| 30.12,11. 01:18 AM |
First buyers' grant ripoffs hit home
December 29, 2011
A GERMAN national who bought a house in NSW under the first home buyers' grant, then returned to her homeland to live, is one of more than 900 people forced to repay the grants in the past three years.
In hundreds of cases where people wrongly claimed they were entitled to the grant, buyers were also forced to pay the government for the stamp duty that was waived when they bought the homes.
This year alone, the state government clawed back more than $6 million from users of the scheme who either failed to live in their first home for six months or used the grants to buy investment properties.
A further six people were prosecuted for defrauding the scheme, which ranges from $7000 to as high as $21,000 for those who bought a new dwelling or built their own home between October 2008 and September 2009.
One of those prosecuted was Rosario Trignano, of Five Dock, who was found guilty of three charges of using the alias Ross Rigano to claim the grant. In August he was sentenced to 200 hours of community service in the Downing Centre Local Court and ordered to pay the NSW Office of State Revenue more than $28,000 in repayments and fines.
Earlier this month, German teacher Dagmar O'Hara was forced to repay her $7000 grant plus $12,054 in stamp duty and also pay a $1400 fine after she purchased a house in Coffs Harbour in 2008 but rented it out, earning more than $63,000 in rent. Ms O'Hara said she was unable to live in the house because she had to go to Germany to look after her sick parents.
The maximum court-imposed penalty for fraudulently obtaining first-home benefits is two years prison and an $11,000 fine.
A condition of the grant is that at least one applicant must live in the home as their principal place of residence continuously for at least six months within a year of settlement or construction.
An obvious exclusion to applying for the grant is if a buyer has previously purchased a home.
The suburbs of Liverpool, Westmead, Blacktown and Leumeah have been the most popular recipients of the scheme, with residents of those suburbs receiving more than $480 million in grants since they began in July 2000.
Last month there was a 50 per cent spike in payments of both first-home grants and the grants plus stamp duty waiver, compared to October.
From Sunday, newcomers to the property market will no longer be able to avoid paying transfer title charges on existing homes under $600,000.