The cash-poor Cypress Lakes Resort in NSW's Hunter Valley has been investigated by the state's Department of Fair Trading over claims the complex withheld rent and charged excessive body corporate fees.

Owners claim the annual maintenance fees rocketed by $1000 in two years to as much as $9000 a year, yet they were unhappy with the standard of the facilities.

Cypress Lakes Resort was developed 15 years ago as a glamorous five-star site with 232 villas, a golf course and a health spa.

The villas are privately owned and most are rented back to the Cypress Lakes Group. But about 50 of the units are now for sale.

The Australian