Waimea Village resident Christine Schouten outside her home.

Resident forced to sell home

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At least five residents of Waimea Village have been given 28 days to pay up or face being kicked off the land they lease.

The termination of lease notices were issued to at least five residents by owners of the village Michael and Carolyn Wright late last week and they say there will be more to come this week.

That could include Christine Schouton who has lived in the village since 2000. She approached Michael late last year saying she could not afford the levy increase, which was raised from $125 a month to $182.75. She told him that she was putting her house on the market and when she sold it she would pay back all money owing to him.

She says that he declined the offer and said she needed to pay straight away.

Christine says she hasn’t paid any more than the $125 a month she had been paying and now owes close to $800 in back pay. She has her small home on the market for $160,000. She says she can’t afford to pay the increase because she is on a fixed income, a sickness benefit that gives her $200 a week. Out of that she pays for her mortgage, rates, food and power.

“I’ve lost so much sleep over this and shed so many tears, I wish it would just go back to the way it was, the village was a great place to live.”

The notices are the latest in the long and nasty levy fee dispute between the Wrights and 172 home owners at the village that now has them preparing for a court case later this year over alleged misappropriation of levy money by the Wrights. The battle started in late 2010 when the Wrights proposed increasing the monthly fee that the residents pay for the leased land from $80 to $190. Last year they proposed raising it to $284 but an arbitrator set it at $182.75 and another proposed increase is expected any day. Residents say the increases are unfair as they already own their homes and pay normal Tasman District Council rates and other bills on top of the levy fee.

The levy includes management of the village, lawn mowing of the common areas only and the removal of green waste. A portion of the fee is required to go to a repairs and replacement fund, but residents believe the amount that should be in the fund isn’t there and that the Wrights have used the money for other purposes. That’s why they are taking the Wrights to court. Residents say they get little in return for the fees and many have vowed not to pay any more than last year’s levy of $125 month.

But that gives the Wrights an opportunity to try and kick them off the land they lease. Michael refused to comment when asked by the Waimea Weekly what would happen if they hadn’t paid in 28 days, he referred the paper to the lease which states any property on the site can be sold by the Wrights and the land re-leased with the money made from the sale used against the balance owed.

Waimea Village residents’ committee chair, Jerry Rowland, says the committee does not condone the acts of those not paying but he has serious issue with the way the Wrights have gone about the whole issue. “Some of these people are now really struggling financially and with many of them elderly on a fixed pension I don’t know how many of them will be able to cope.”

He says residents can contest the termination of lease notices and says he knows of several people who are willing to fight it all the way to court and that they are giving all of the residents as much support as they can.

Christine says she doesn’t have the money or energy for a court case. “I just want to sell and get out of this mess, I’ve a daughter in Perth and son in Christchurch I can live with, so I hope I can sell it and move on.”