Elderly trio face eviction

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013
Trio face eviction
Stacy Squires

ORDERED TO LEAVE: Joan Leeson, 86, left, Valerie McBride, 81, and Verna Veint, 71, face eviction.

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Three elderly women who spent their life savings on the right to live in an Upper Riccarton retirement unit until they die face homelessness this Christmas.

Joan Leeson, 86, Valerie McBride, 81, and Verna Veint, 71, are on borrowed time when it comes to their homes.

The pensioners were told to vacate their units by December 2, but have since managed to negotiate a 90-day reprieve with the mortgagee.

Stress is taking a toll on the trio's health - one recently blacked-out during a game of bowls and was found face down in her garden with a dislocated hip, while another has developed a nervous rash and cannot stop her hands from shaking.

The three women are the last remaining residents of the Crossdale Courts retirement complex that has been in legal turmoil ever since its owner, former Christchurch police detective Gary Campbell, declared bankruptcy and fled to Australia in 2008.

Originally, there were 23 residents, who all paid Campbell up to $120,000 for the right to occupy their units until death.

The mortgagees who took over the complex were not aware of the residents' contracts and were not legally bound to honour them.

Over the past five years, Leeson, McBride and Veint have seen their neighbours evicted, taken into care or die.

They received letters on November 14 stating their mortgagee, Secure Funding Limited (SFL), wanted to sell their properties and they had 17 days to vacate.

"It was panic stations around here. I shook so much when I saw the envelope that I couldn't open it alone," McBride said.

"I shook for two days afterwards. My insides were shaking."

She has diabetes and her health has deteriorated rapidly since the news.

"I've seen my mother shrink. She's become very old and forgetful," her daughter, Phillipa Pink, said.

Leeson, who has serious health concerns, has no family to help her with the impending move and her two neighbours fear for her safety.

Auckland-based law firm Lowndes Associates is acting on behalf of SFL and indicated it would be merciful with the pensioners.

SFL has allowed the trio to overstay their eviction date and agreed to postpone seeking vacant possession of the units for 90 days to allow the residents "sufficient time to find alternative accommodation", a Lowndes Associates spokesman said.

SFL had received no payments from the properties since 2008 and planned to sell the units by auction next year, he said.

McBride moved into Crossdale Courts in 2001 and paid $60,000 as a personal loan to Campbell, while Veint arrived in 2006 and paid $120,000.

Both were promised to have their loans repaid, less 5 per cent, when they vacated.

Last year, Veint, McBride and fellow resident James Barber, 77, pleaded for the city council to purchase the remaining units and add them to its depleted social housing stock.

The council initially indicated this was a possibility, but never acted on it.

Barber's plight was published in The Press and an anonymous philanthropist has since bought him a retirement unit.

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- The Press

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