Man who found empty $1.8m house now owns it thanks to old law

A Sydney man has picked up a $1.8 million-dollar home without paying for it, thanks to an obscure, old law.

Property developer Bill Gertos was visiting a client when he came across the empty house in Ashbury, in Sydney’s inner west, in 1998.

After asking around about the property, he learned the elderly lady who lived there had died.

With curiosity getting the better of him, Mr Gertos entered through the back door and found the rubbish-filled house was indeed unoccupied, News Corp reports.

Mr Gertos is now the proud owner of 6 Malleny Street, Ashbury. Image: Newscorp via Sunrise

The next day he paid a builder to change the locks, kicking off a 20-year-long project that saw him renovate and rent out the property.

Through an arcane law commonly known as squatter’s rights, Mr Gertos tried to officially claim ownership of 6 Malleny Street.

His claim was halted when the family of a man, who had purchased the property in 1927, filed an injunction, arguing Mr Gertos could not claim squatter’s rights as he had rented the house out and not lived in it himself.

Over 20 years, he renovated and rented out the property. Image: Newscorp via Sunrise

But it wasn’t enough to convince the Supreme Court, who on Tuesday ruled that Mr Gertos had fulfilled the necessary requirements to claim ownership.

Squatter’s rights, legally referred to as “adverse possession”, allows someone who occupies a property for a certain period to claim ownership.

In New South Wales that period is 12 years.