Tones and I fined $20,000 for illegal renovation to Frankston investment property

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Pop star Tones and I and her husband have been fined a combined $25,000 for renovations done to a Frankston investment property without building permits.

The Dance Monkey singer and global star, whose real name is Toni Elizabeth Watson, did not appear in Frankston Magistrates’ Court on Monday, where a summary detailed how she and husband Jason Scott “Jimmy” Bedford, 31, began works on the home between October and November 2020.

Tones and I performing at Melbourne’s Laneway Festival in 2020.Credit: Edwina Pickles

The court heard the pair began replacing decking, a porch, an external staircase and an internal load-bearing wall before subcontractors later took over the works.

Frankston City Council discovered the illegal works in November 2020 after visiting the property to investigate a dilapidated brick front fence which was the subject of a complaint from another resident.

A stop work notice was issued that month, but subcontractors continued working on the renovations and by March 2022 the works were complete, and a tenant was living in the home.

Real estate listings show the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home was purchased in September 2020 for $720,000.

Toni Watson’s company pleaded guilty to renovations done on this Frankston property without permits.Credit: Domain

In October 2022, the council issued a notice demanding the home be returned to its original state, which did not occur. A building survey was eventually completed which found the renovations were compliant and safe.

Bedford pleaded guilty to undertaking building works without a permit, while Johnny Run Away Investments, of which Watson is sole director, pleaded guilty to two other charges including failure to comply with a stop work notice.

Bruce Gardiner, the council’s prosecutions co-ordinator, said that during a December 2022 interview with council prosecutors, Bedford claimed he had been overseas and “was too busy to deal with the issue” when works continued despite the council’s warnings for them to stop.

“When it was put to him that his tenant was living in a house that may be structurally inadequate, he repeated that he must have been too busy to deal with it,” Gardiner said.

The home as it looked before the renovations.Credit: Domain

The court heard the council requested receipts for contractors used for the works, but Bedford told the council he paid them in cash.

Defence lawyer Sam Bird said Bedford had no prior convictions, was a world-touring audio engineer and should not be judged as a property developer with an extensive knowledge of building requirements.

“This is a first time. He understands now, in no uncertain terms, what is required if he was to invest, or his wife’s company were to invest, in properties and decide to renovate them,” Bird said.

“It was a project that ultimately required permits but didn’t require any rectification [after the illegal works].”

But Gardiner claimed it was unlikely Bedford was unaware of the legal requirement to obtain building permits before undertaking structural work to a property given he ran a bricklaying company for a decade.

“I submit that one could not own a bricklaying company for 10 years and be engaged in building and be unaware of the requirements when taking walls out of the insides of houses,” the council’s lawyer said.

“The aggravating circumstance is that the accused were found to be in breach of the legislation and were ordered to stop work for safety reasons, and they continued to work and put a tenant inside the house for a period of 12 months, and that, crucially, aggravates the offending in my view.”

Magistrate Charles Tan issued two fines – one of $20,000 to Watson’s company and another $5000 penalty directly to Bedford – without conviction. The maximum possible penalties for the charges against the company were $220,000 while the maximum for the charge against Bedford was $85,000.

“These matters involve public safety, therefor the size of the fine that I impose has got to reflect the importance of general deterrence … certainly to communicate to people the importance of obtaining a building permit before such works that involve people’s safety are carried out,” Tan said.

The court also heard that Watson’s company purchased a second investment property nearby in Frankston, for $1.35 million in January 2022.

Watson grew up on the Mornington Peninsula and is now a global star, a multiple ARIA Award winner and her music has been streamed on Spotify more than 1 billion times. She married Bedford in March.

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