Marlborough Property Investors' Association

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$200,000 fine for ‘Why rent' promoter

The man behind a property scheme that promised home ownership to vulnerable Kiwi's has been sentenced at the Auckland District Court of breaching the Fair Trading Act, fined $237,048 plus $42,764 in repatriation.

Christopher Mark Ashenden, director of Home Finance Company and Meguro Limited, marketed the scheme with the phrase "why rent when you can own, rent is dead money."

The Court was told investor companies acquired residential properties in South Auckland using the property investment model promoted by Ashenden.

People who signed up to the scheme were only granted the right to occupy each property under a 30-year installment agreement and it was not made clear to the occupiers their agreements did not give them legal ownership of their property until the end of the 30-year period.

Judge Moore said the offending contained strong elements of cynicism and the calculated exploitation of people.

"By encouraging vulnerable people in the mistaken belief that they were acquiring home ownership rather than a package of rights and obligations which, on any view, fell far short of that concept, folk were lured into commitments which were a recipe for disasters in which they lost everything they had put into the property they were seeking to acquire - indeed were given to understand they had acquired."

Judge Moore imposed a heavy fine despite Ashenden's bankruptcy, saying he believed it to be a ploy and no indication of his real worth.

"The Court has no hesitation in concluding that Mr Ashenden is one of those people whose affairs are deliberately kept complicated to the point where it is exceedingly time consuming and expensive to unravel them," he said.