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800% rent rise threatens future of Club Lambton

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While most tenants accept rent increases are a normal part of life, what do you do when your landlord bumps up your lease by a whopping 800% in less than 12 months? 

That’s what happened to Club Charlestown CEO Michael Gray when, in July, he was told the payment on his “sister-business” Club Lambton was being increased following “Crown Land evaluations”. 

Less than two years after he says he “rescued” the Karoola Street facility from bankruptcy, Mr Gray has watched rent on the premises jump from $12,000 to $55,000 per annum. 

Then, last month, he was told that from 1 July 2023 it’s increased to $95,000 per annum. 

Michael Gray.

Mr Gray, an experienced businessman from Orange who moved to the region to take over the running of Club Charlestown in October 2015, says the increase is unreasonable. 

“I accept that rent increases are a part of life, but this equates to an 800% increase in less than two years and that seems unreasonable to me,” he said. 

“If your rent on a home was $500 a week one month and then bumped up to $1,500 a week the next you’d be questioning it, and that’s all I’m asking now,” he told the Newcastle Weekly

Mr Gray took over the lease at Club Lambton in April 2021 after COVID-19 restrictions were blamed for its previous owners suffering a huge business slump.

The move threatened the end of an era for the address that was first established as an organisation in 1912. 

Home of the Rosellas and Lambton New Lambton RSL Sub-Branch, Club Lambton was one of the first associations in Australia to introduce a women’s only team into its lawn bowls district games.  

Mr Gray approached both Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery and Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison to act on his behalf, urging Crown Lands to reconsider the amount.

“I was told there was nothing they could do because the club was not eligible for a reduction,” he explained.

Mr Gray is urging local residents to help put pressure on authorities to save the premises.

He’s hosting a community meeting at Club Lambton on Friday 18 August from 5pm.

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