A local real estate agent has responded to criticism about its involvement in the resettlement of the Murugappan asylum seeker family.
A local real estate agent has responded to criticism about its involvement in the resettlement of the Murugappan family after a good Samaritan offered up his investment home free of charge to the Tamil asylum seekers.
The generous Melbourne investor, who wishes to remain anonymous, had originally intended to lease his home in the central Queensland town of Biloela through Ray White but was “thrilled to bits” when he learnt he could help the displaced family find accommodation.
After four years detained by the Australian Border Force on Christmas Island and then a community detention centre in Perth, parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa will return to Biloela on Friday.
Locals lobbied and fought for their return, including the grassroots Home to Bilo campaign.
Their return will also mark their younger daughter, Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday – her first spent out of detention.
A week from their arrival, May, a local woman with a background in real estate, helped organise the contract for their free accommodation, paid the bond and offered to take care of any maintenance issues that may occur during the initial six-month period.
Meanwhile, the Melbourne owner waived the $400 a week rent for the three bedroom, one bathroom home.
However, May claims the leasing agents at Ray White chose not to scrap the commission fee, instead offering a reduced rate of 5.5 per cent, plus the regular monthly fee. May said this would have cost the owner an additional $95 a month.
While they have since terminated their lease arrangement with Ray White, May said she was “horrified” at the real estate’s response.
“Basically you’re paying for their computer systems and them to push a button to send you a statement. It works out to be $95 a month,” she told news.com.au.
With time about to run our before the Murugappan family’s return to Biloela on Friday, May and the owner of the home opted to cut ties with Ray White and chose to enter a private lease, with May acting as the property manager.
“Everybody else in Biloela is trying to get furniture in there and just get it all set up and settled so that they’ve got a home to come to.”
In a statement to news.com.au, Ray White Biloela said the fees were in relation to a quote request and they weren’t asked to donate their services.
“We were asked to provide a quotation to do it, which we did and I appreciate the owner’s rights to manage the property themselves,” he said.
“Ray White Biloela was more than happy to help settle the Murugappan family into their new home back in Biloela.
“We were still happy to assist the property owner in setting up the tenancy for their future management. This would include providing them with an Entry Condition Report, General Tenancy Agreement and New Tenancy Information.
“We wish the family nothing but the best for their future together. We are a family business and family values run deep in our group and our town.”
Responding to a tweet that criticised the agency for charging an agency fee, a spokesman for the Ray White Group wrote: “Ray White Biloela is happy to help settle the family into their new home.
“The owner has very kindly offered the property to the family for free and the office is happy to assist the owner with their private management. We wish the family all the best for their future together.”
May, however, was dissatisfied with the response.
“So many people are offering help. They’re getting furniture from everywhere and it’s great,” she said.
Describing the community call-to-arms, May said it was important to acknowledge the work of multiple Biloela residents who fought to bring the family home. In doing so, she shared the work of people like social worker Angela Fredericks – all of who were associated with the Home to Bilo campaign.
“There are so many local families in Biloela and this district who have been on this and trying to get them back for years,” she said.
“These guys have put in their time and effort for years to get the home. That’s a hard slog.”
After a four-year battle that has spanned more than 1500 days, the Murugappan commenced their journey home on Wednesday morning. After flying from Perth to Brisbane, the family will spend two nights in the capital city, before landing in Thangool, just 11km from Biloela.
Upon winning the federal election, Interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers used his ministerial powers, granting the family a bridging visa and effectively allowing to return to Biloela.
Speaking to reporters at Perth Airport, Priya said her family was excited to return home.
“Me and my family are very happy to start our journey back to my community in Bilo,” she said, as reported by Nine Newspapers.
“Thank you to all in Perth, thanks WA.”