A Sydney-based elderly couple who were nearly forced to sell their home of 50 years to cover the costs of body corporate fees associated with upgrading the windows in their building have been saved by donations to a Go Fund Me page.
Pensioners, Nitsa and Spiros Tzavellas, aged 78 and 81, made headlines across the country in recent weeks as news of their battle with body corporate organisation, Bonded Strata Management, drew outrage from concerned members of the public.
The couple live in a unit located in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood, which they purchased for $22,000 in 1972.
In 2019, body corporate Bonded Strata voted to raise a special levy to upgrade windows in the building where the elderly couple’s unit is situated. This resulted in Nitsa and Spiros being handed a bill for more than $18,000.
Unable to pay the bill, the couple appeared on TV programme, A Current Affair, where both they and a financial counsellor shared details of the nightmare that was unfolding.
Financial counsellor, Isis Khalil, told A Current Affair that the couple was put on a payment plan to cover the exorbitant fee. This equated to almost half of their total pension payments
“Because if you are on an Age Pension as a couple, you are likely to be earning somewhere between $1,400 and $1,500 a fortnight and to pay $660 a fortnight is a huge percentage of that amount.
“And you’ve also got to consider that every quarter, their normal levies are going to be due as well.”
Nitsa and Spiros attempted to fight the debt through the courts, but a lawyer acting pro bono on their behalf failed to see the case through.
As a result, Bonded Strata passed on the costs of their legal fees to the elderly couple, along with interest on the original $18,000 amount. The final debt of which was set at around $44,000.
With no way to settle the growing debt, Nitsa and Spiros were desperately attempting to sell their home to cover the costs before mid-August.
Otherwise, the couple would have been declared bankrupt and Bonded Strata could sell their home at a price of their choice.
“They’re going to sell the house for me, the strata … if I don’t sell it, they’re going to sell it to get the money,” a visibly distressed Nitsa told A Current Affair.
Adding insult to the situation, the couple also revealed that the windows in their home were not yet upgraded, despite the fact that a report in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that the couple paid instalments of $466 a fortnight for much of 2020 and 2021.
In a desperate bid to save the home, the couple’s nephew, Anthony Proutsos, started a Go Fund Me page with a goal of $60,000 to cover the pensioner’s strata fees and associated costs.
Thankfully, media coverage made a visceral impact on Australians and inspired many to dig into their pockets to help the two seniors in need.
Only 11 days since the Go Fund Me page was created, it was announced that the page has reached its desired monetary goal which will allow Nitsa and Spiros to remain in their home.
While it appears that Nitsa and Spiros’ battle with Bonded Strata is now over, it is hoped that remarks made by financial counsellor, Ms Khalil, serve as a warning to other body corporate organisations that employ similar tactics.