Tiny homes company under fire over ‘missing’ deposits
A GOLD Coast business has been accused of taking $300,000 in deposits for "tiny homes" and failing to deliver them.
Amphibia Engineering, which traded as technoPODS and other names including WaterPODS, was founded in 2015 by UK-born Jason Caruana.
Mr Caruana marketed the homes at people who wanted a property without a large mortgage while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint.
It is alleged technoPODS owes at least eight workers more than $30,000 in unpaid wages and other entitlements.
Mr Caruana did not return multiple calls and text messages from the Bulletin.
The phone line for the company headquarters has been disconnected.
On Friday, Mr Caruana and wife and co-director Kerry Caruana made a declaration of eligibility for temporary restructuring relief.
This federal government initiative extends through to March 31 and is designed to help companies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measures include increasing the amount that must be owed to a creditor from $2000 to $20,000 before a creditor can issue a statutory demand and providing a company director with temporary safe harbour from personal liability for insolvent trading.
A NSW resident, who did not want to be named, said she was one of about a dozen clients who paid a deposit for a tiny home under a "rent to own" scheme, but is yet to receive her house.
The tiny homes are at Bretts Hardware and Timber's manufacturing facility in Geebung where they remain under lock and key as the company has not been paid by Mr Caruana.
A spokesman at Bretts confirmed the company was holding 10 of the tiny homes until payment was received.
The client said "all up" she has paid $20,000 for her home, including the cost of transportation to the Central West region of NSW where she lives.
"He holds all the strings right now. He won't return anyone's calls. He won't email back."
She said she first contacted technoPODS in July last year.
"They were doing these end-of-year sales, basically cookie-cutter tiny homes.
"We were supposed to have the delivery in October and he has been stuffing us around since then."
She said the rent-to-own scheme worked whereby the client paid an initial deposit, the tiny home was built and delivered, and then the customer paid $280 a week in rent, plus interest, over a three-year period until the house was paid off.
She said she first twigged to the fact something was wrong when Mr Caruana stopped sending "progress photos".
"He kept making excuses ... then using COVID as an excuse.
"Two weeks before Christmas he started indicating ... he had financial issues."
On December 29, Mr Caruana allegedly told staff at his Steiglitz-based company that the business would cease with "immediate effect" with all employee contracts terminated.
"Unfortunately in the last week my personal circumstances have changed significantly out of the blue," he allegedly wrote in an email to staff.
"I won't go into details, however what it means is I need to cease the business with immediate effect until these circumstances can be resolved.
"I know the timing is shitty but trust me what has happened on my side is very major and has wide reaching impacts on me and my family."
Mr Caruana allegedly told staff that he planned to continue the business, but must first "address the challenges in front of me as a priority".
A former employee at technoPODS told the Bulletin she felt "devastated" by what had happened.
"I feel devasted for myself and all employees," she said.
"I also feel so sad for the customers. So many lives have been impacted and I hope there is a resolution for everyone."
Originally published as Gold Coast tiny homes company under fire over 'missing' deposits