By Olivia Lambert
A couple's dream of buying a home turned into a nightmare when it was abruptly taken away from them two years after paying for it.
Jade and Edward Roberts bought a home in Croydon, in Melbourne's east, in 2015. They bought it off the plan - committing to buy a property that hasn't yet been built - for $399,000 ($429,922) but received a discount of $15,000.
"We had decided it was time we wanted to buy a house and we started looking at already established houses," Jade Roberts told news.com.au.
"We went through the process. For example, there was one house we really liked and put in an offer for but it was sold for $100,000 more than what they said it would.
"Somebody told us they saw this particular development in Croydon and it was trying to sell the last few homes and knocking off $15,000 and wiping the stamp duty.
"It was going to be ready by the end of . We wanted something straight away but thought there were only a few more months to wait to get such a good deal. We thought it was perfect," Roberts said.
The developer kept pushing the moving date back three months at a time and Roberts said there was always a different reason.
"We kept holding out hope but another Christmas would go by and we kept trying to be positive. We believed the stories because you know what building can be like," she said.
The couple recently got married and on the first day of their honeymoon in Rome they received an email from lawyers acting on behalf of developer Jerry Collins and company C24 Pty Ltd. The email stated the contract was being torn up and the two-bedroom apartment would be returned to the developers.
The developer has the right to do this under the sunset clause, where developers can withdraw the contract and put the apartments back up for sale if the property hasn't been registered after 24 months.
It has been dubbed the "sunset clawback" and is one of the biggest risks when buying off the plan.
In 2015, multiple class actions were taken against "sunset clawback" developers.
The legislation has since been changed to protect the buyers. For a contract to be terminated, a buyer now needs to agree.
Roberts is fighting to have the clause amended in Victoria as well.
"We did not know this existed and nobody told us. It wasn't until after a year of waiting we started to hear stories and were warned about it. We started to get the idea and in our heads we wondered if this is what [the developer] was trying to do," she said.
"Sadly, it just happened day one of our honeymoon, as soon as the 24 months ticked over."
Roberts said they were told their deposit would be returned, but they have not received any more information.
"We have stepped up quite quickly to say we don't want to give the home back," she said.
There is some speculation about why the developer used the sunset clause, but none Roberts could delve into. She has hired a lawyer and is pushing back on the developer's decision.
"We want to get the property back first and foremost and we absolutely want the legalities of it changed so this is not able to happen," she said.
"It's hard enough to get into the property market and getting burned like this is not fair and I don't want it to happen to anyone."
Roberts said they had spent an extra $10,000 on the home to get special fittings to tailor it to their style.
She is an avid cook so the couple paid for alterations to the kitchen and had an island bench and wide oven installed.
"So after 24 months they try to take that away from us when we've done all that work and get nothing at the end," she said.
The couple has been living in a small apartment for several years and they were excited to escape their frustrating living situation.
Roberts said she had heard rumours other people who bought properties in the development had also been stung by the sunset clause.
She has been humbled by the support they have received and said although her situation is a nightmare, she appreciated she still had a roof over her head, food on the table, and clothes on her back.
"In context to our lives in Australia, this house debacle isn't fair and has been a bloody frustrating last two years," she wrote in a Facebook post.
"But then I also remind myself not to be so selfish when there are millions of others doing it bloody tough every day.
"So these types of situations will often test you, but after the storm is over, it can seem trivial in comparison to the hardships that others might face.
"We will still be disgruntled about the situation nonetheless. But I'm also still appreciative of the lives we have."
Collins, the developer, did not respond to news.com.au's request for comment.