Property spruiker under investigation after promising big returns

A property spruiker who charges clients $10,000 to learn how to “buy without a bank” and become a “millionaire property investor” has been reported to authorities in Australia and New Zealand after clients complained they had been duped.

Tasmania-based Deanne de Leeuw owns and operates The Creative Property Academy, Positive Cashflow Investment and Buy Without a Bank, which she promotes through Facebook and YouTube.

Deanne de Leeuw, who is under investigation for allegedly duping investors and publishing misleading advertising.
Deanne de Leeuw, who is under investigation for allegedly duping investors and publishing misleading advertising.Credit:Screenshot supplied

A spokesman for Tasmania’s Justice Department confirmed its consumer affairs division was investigating complaints about Creative Property Academy, and complaints have also been made in NSW.

Several clients who have in some cases borrowed money to join Ms de Leeuw’s “masterclass” courses have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald they got nowhere near the promised returns of between $5000 and $10,000 a month, and have claimed to authorities that they were misled by Ms de Leeuw’s advertising.


In her advertisements, Ms de Leeuw promotes her methods as being able to “make $5k in 30 days from property you don’t own” and to turn people into “a millionaire property investor in just three years without buying any property, instead by ‘controlling’ property”.

Her wealth-creation strategies rely on controversial financial schemes known as “rent to buy” or “lease options”. These schemes bring together sellers who are struggling to sell their properties and renters who are keen to buy but cannot secure finance. The renter pays an upfront deposit to secure an option to buy the property after an agreed period of time – often three years – during which they also sometimes pay higher-than-market rent.

Part of the Facebook page of Deanne de Leeuw, who is now under investigation by Tasmania’s Justice Department.
Part of the Facebook page of Deanne de Leeuw, who is now under investigation by Tasmania’s Justice Department.Credit:Facebook

Ms de Leeuw, who did not respond to questions from The Age and the Herald, encourages her clients to become intermediaries in such deals by seeking potential sellers and buyers and managing their lease-option arrangements. One of her Facebook groups has 1822 members.

A former client in country NSW said he got involved in a lease-option arrangement with Ms de Leeuw via online platform Gumtree and lost about $60,000 in deposits and rental payments.

Lynne Jackson lent Deanne de Leeuw money.
Lynne Jackson lent Deanne de Leeuw money.

A South Australian client who paid $9000 to participate in one of Ms de Leeuw’s courses last year wrote in a letter of complaint that she had not been told she would be “cold calling” vendors trying to convince them to get involved in lease-option schemes that did not produce results as claimed.

Lynne Jackson, a former Creative Property Academy client who was briefly employed by Ms de Leeuw in 2018, said she had given Ms de Leeuw a $165,000 short-term loan in 2018 to help buy a property in Tasmania.

But “as soon as [Ms de Leeuw] got the money, all communication dropped off”, Ms Jackson said, and she “never made any interest payments”.

Ms Jackson was forced to obtain an order in the Supreme Court of Tasmania to have the bulk of the money repaid in June, having spent thousands of dollars in legal costs.

She said she had believed Ms de Leeuw was her friend and trusted that the loan would be repaid by January 2019, as per their agreement. Ms Jackson said she felt embarrassed by what had happened but was willing to speak publicly to stop other people becoming victims and to encourage Australia’s financial regulators to keep a closer eye on property spruikers.

In NSW, a client who paid thousands of dollars to participate in courses said Ms de Leeuw suggested she pay $10,000 for a lease option over Ms de Leeuw’s own house. The woman refused and said she believed it was a conflict of interest for someone running a course to seek to make a financial agreements with a paying student.

Ms Jackson said she had been contacted by Ms de Leeuw’s late brother, Jason de Leeuw, who said he had sympathy for Ms Jackson, saying: “I am her brother so I know about most of her dodgy dealings. I hope it wasn’t a lot of money.”

In another message, he wrote: “Selling a lease option course for thousands of $$$, telling people that it’s a proven method and system and a guaranteed six-figure income, when she couldn’t achieve it herself.”

The chief executive of Victoria’s Consumer Action Law Centre, Gerard Brody, said lease-option schemes often targeted the financially vulnerable and could lead to people paying far more than a property was worth or losing their deposits should the homeowner choose to sell to someone else.

He said the combination of a COVID-19 economic downturn, low immigration, low interest rates and a glut of empty city apartments could lead to a new wave of property investment schemes.

Financial Counselling Foundation board member Carolyn Bond said she had been studying rent-to-buy schemes for 10 years and had yet to come across a single deal where buyers, sellers and intermediaries all benefited equitably.

In 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission prosecuted the nation’s most notorious promoter of rent-to-buy schemes, Rick Otton, for false and misleading conduct by promising investors they could buy a house for $1. Mr Otton was found guilty by a Federal Court judge and he and his company received a record fine of $18 million.

Ms de Leeuw and Mr Otton share the same lawyer, Sydney vendor finance specialist Tony Cordato. The Age and the Herald are not accusing Mr Cordato or Ms de Leeuw of any involvement in the activities Mr Otton was convicted for.

Know more? Contact Richard Baker securely at [email protected]

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