Insight – Inheritance: What effect does inheritance have on family relationships, how can it change lives? airs on SBS on Tuesday May 24 at 8.30pm
A cancer survivor’s life was ‘completely changed’ when her landlord gave her the house she had rented for more than two decades.
Jane Sayner, 75, thought she would have to work into her 80s and feared she would never be able to afford to rent anywhere else when her landlord died as she would have to move out.
The landlord had always said he was leaving everything to charity, so Ms Sayner was certain the property would be sold.
But six months before he died, aged 86, in September 2020, multimillionaire Melbourne pharmacist John Perrett told her he was leaving the property to her.
Luckily, she was sitting down at home in St Albans in Melbourne’s north-west when he called, as she was utterly shocked.
Jane Sayner (pictured) thought she would have to work until her 80s, but then her landlord gave her the house she’d rented for more than two decades
‘For the whole time that he was my landlord, he’d always said that all of his money was going to the Royal Melbourne Hospital,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Ms Sayner said Mr Perrett had always been a good landlord since she started renting from him in 1998.
‘He had a lot of properties, and if something went wrong or needed fixing, it was done straight away,’ she said.
Ms Sayner was also a good tenant. ‘I always paid the rent on time. He was a very strict businessman. He had lots of shares as well as properties.
‘I treated this place like it was my own. When I first came here there was no garden out the back. Because I was living here, I planted lots of plants and flowers, which are still here today.
‘When he saw what I’d done, he brought over some old, big pots that his father had had that he didn’t use, that I could plant things in.’
Mr Perrett was an old school businessman and the rent was handed over in person.
‘It was wasn’t until 18 months or two years before he died that I talked him into letting me put the money into a bank account.
‘Up until then, when he was able he would come and collect the rent from here once a month.
Jane Sayner is pictured in the house she rented for more than 20 years and which she now owns
‘And when he got to the stage where he couldn’t do that anymore, he put all the other units, except this one, into the hands of agents.
‘But I would just drop the money off for him once a month until I talked him into doing a bank transfer.’
Ms Sayner used to sit and talk with Mr Perrett, who never married and was an only child, when she was paying the rent.
‘We’d talk for an hour or so because he used to be by himself all the time. We talked about everything. His father, his life as a chemist in St Albans.
‘When he was getting on a bit and was starting to find it hard to cook for himself, I took him to buy a roast, things like that.’
The living room is pictured in the house Jane Sayner was gifted by her multimillionaire landlord
Despite his great wealth, Mr Perrett was not one for luxuries or an extravagant lifestyle.
‘He had an old television. It took me four years to talk him into replacing that with a new one so he could actually see the picture and it didn’t hum anymore,’ she said.
Ms Sayner, who is originally from the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine, had lived in the countryside for seven years in the 1990s before moving back to the city.
‘I looked at so many places, but this one appealed to me and I was lucky enough to get it. Best thing that ever happened.’
There was no back garden in the house (pictured) when Ms Sayner moved in, but she treated the place as her own and built it up over more than two decades
Ms Sayner had an operation for bowel cancer last December and has just been told by an oncologist at a check up that she is all clear at the moment.
She said it was an enormous relief when she left hospital to be able to walk back into her house and know it was hers.
If she hadn’t owned the house, ‘I would still have been working, I suppose,’ she said.
‘But I wouldn’t have been living here, though, that’s the whole thing. (If I hadn’t got it in the will) it would have been sold and the proceeds would have gone to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, which was what happened with (almost) everything else.
‘So who knows where I would have been or what circumstances I would have been in. (Getting left the house) was lifechanging, it’s just been fantastic.’
Who was Melbourne multimillionaire John Perrett?
John Perrett was a pharmacist in the Melbourne suburb of St Albans.
He never married and didn’t have any children.
John Perrett (pictured) was a multimillionaire who did not live a life of luxury or extravagance
Mr Perrett made millions of dollars on the stock market and through his properties.
Despite his great wealth, he did not live a life of luxury and extravagance.
Mr Perrett received a kidney transplant about 30 years ago, which extended his life.
He showed his gratitude for this by leaving most of his fortune – around $18.6million – to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
He also left the properties they rented to two long term tenants and left money to some other people, including a handyman who had worked for him.
Mr Perrett was in a nursing home towards the end of his life, after having a couple of falls. He also had Parkinson’s disease.
‘I used to call in at least once a week on my way home from work. I know what it’s like for people in those places. You don’t get a lot of visitors and it’s not much fun,’ Ms Sayner said.
‘Then one day he just rang me and said “My solicitor’s here, can you please give me your full name, because I’m leaving you your unit.”
‘I thought I hadn’t heard it right. Surely not. For the whole time I had known him, (leaving all his money to charity) was always what he was going to do.
‘Everything was going to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. As it finished up, it was $18.6million that they got.’
Jane Sayner was utterly shocked when her landlord told her he was leaving the house she rented (kitchen pictured) to her
One other long term tenant was also left a unit in Mr Perrett’s will and some others got money, including a handyman who had worked for him.
Ms Sayner worked for Costa wholesale fruit and vegetables for almost a quarter century until she finally retired last year, aged 74.
The company had told her she could work for them as long as she wanted to.
Though she worked in the office, she still had to be there during the company’s very early starts.
‘John died in September (2020) and in April (2021) I turned 74 and said, “That’s it, I’m not getting up at three o’clock in the morning anymore to go to work.”‘
Jane Sayner is pictured outside the house she rented for decades and now owns after her landlord left it to her in his will
Due to Covid lockdown restrictions, when Mr Perrett died, just 10 people were allowed to attend the funeral.
Ms Sayner was one of them.
‘For the last two or three months I couldn’t even go and visit him in the nursing home. I wasn’t allowed in. That was the worst.’
Though he had a phone, it was very hard to get through to Mr Perrett as he was losing his eyesight.
Ms Sayner has previously been married and has step-children, but has chosen to be by herself since moving back to Melbourne in the late 1990s.
Now that she has a pension and a roof over her head, she said ‘What more could you want?’