Man pretends empty house is his, rents it out, and becomes official owner under squatters' rights

A man noticed an empty, broken-down house in Sydney, Australia and poked around the neighborhood to find out more about it. Turns out the occupant, who had been renting it since around the 1940s, had died earlier that year. So Bill Gertos, a tax accountant at the time, decided it was okay – and ethical – to pretend it was his. He fixed it up, changed the locks, and rented it out.

This was 20 years ago, and now Gertos is the lawful owner. The real owners – heirs of the previous owner, who died in 1947 – tried to fight it in court, but Gertos won under squatters' rights, even though he wasn't the one squatting.

According to the BBC:

In New South Wales, squatters can be awarded ownership if they have occupied a property for more than 12 years.

The court granted Mr Gertos those rights because he had repaired and maintained the property since 1998.

Australian media outlets described the case as "bizarre" because the relevant law is typically used by those who move into a property themselves.

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