The first person to have her home forcibly sold by Auckland Council because of unpaid rates has been ordered to pay an additional $44,000 after "abandoning" two container loads of personal belongings in the house.
Charlotte Marsh had her modest Manurewa home of 20 years sold by order of the High Court in August over an unpaid rates bill of $12,000.
Ming Zhang bought the Rogers Rd property at auction for $597,000 but had to seek a court order and use security staff to gain possession after Ms Marsh refused to leave.
Ms Zhang eventually took physical possession in November, seven weeks after settlement. A security worker described the property as "very full, almost akin to a 'hoarder' situation, although tidier".
Ms Marsh, who had actively avoided having court documents served on her and refused to engage with the plaintiff's lawyers, then abandoned the contents of the house, a court decision says. They were put into storage, filling two 6m containers, weighing seven tonnes, with an extra 10cu m for her partner's possessions.
Ms Zhang's lawyers successfully sought a court freezing order over $100,000 of the sale proceeds. After taking possession they filed a claim for more than $70,000 in legal fees and costs associated with lost rental income, storage and stationing security guards at the property.
Justice Paul Davison agreed Ms Zhang was entitled to reasonable expenses, but refused her claim for the cost of security guards, cleaning, lawn mowing and rubbish removal.
Despite repeated appeals to Ms Marsh to claim her possessions, she has failed to make arrangements for their collection. The judge has now granted Ms Zhang permission to dispose of Ms Marsh's personal effects, which will be sold or destroyed.
In a decision issued last week, he also awarded Ms Zhang nearly $45,000 to be deducted from the frozen assets. The amount includes about $32,000 in legal costs, $3150 in lost rent, more than $8000 in storage, packing and removal costs.
Ms Zhang's lawyer, Jacque Lethbridge, said the case was precedent-setting and a warning to both parties involved in any forced sale process.
Since August 2006 Ms Marsh had refused to recognise the council's authority and claimed to have paid rates instead to the "rightful land owner" - Arikinui o Tuhoe.
Speaking on Friday, she refused to accept she had lost her house and denied abandoning her belongings. "There are things ... that are absolutely personal and can't be replaced."
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