Buyers of units in a troubled Langley condo project say a ruling that requires them to pay thousands more than the price they originally agreed upon proves the law need to be changed.
On Tuesday, a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court decision that would require buyers with signed pre-sale agreements to pay $100,000 to $200,000 above the original price if they still want to buy units in the much-postponed Murrayville House condo project.
“It was a pretty quick and swift no,” said Nolan Killeen, who speaks for a group of buyers who have made down payments but have been unable move into the building.
Murrayville House ended up in receivership on Oct. 4, 2017, after months of wrangling between the builder and various creditors.
The buyers had applied to overturn an April 4 decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick, who ruled that the purchasers would not be able to buy units at the prices they originally agreed upon.
The appeal court hearing ran from 10 a.m. to close of day at 4 p.m.
One of the buyers, Fred West, was present for the ruling, which he said came about 20 minutes after the judges finished hearing arguments.
“There were some gasps and some tears and some hugs,” West said.
“Like that, it was done. It was over.”
West said buyers are still processing the ruling.
“Its been a long, hard, difficult fight and we now have to deal with the fact that we have lost our condos.”
West said it appeared the current law leaves buyers in their situation with no recourse.
“It’s the wild wild, west,” he said. “I wouldn’t be recommending anyone buy a pre-sale until the government changes the law.”
Killeen said the judges’ decision shows the law needed to be changed to better protect home buyers.
“The government needs to make some kind of progressive change and use this as an example of what can happen to the citizens of B.C.,” Killeen said. “This is not an acceptable outcome.”
The lawyers who represented the buyers at the appeal court, Diego Solimano and Amelia Boultbee, said the case shows the existing legislation needs to be improved.
“I think this case really highlights how toothless the consumer legislation is,” Boultbee said.
The lawyers said it was too early to say if there might be a further appeal.
“We’re still trying to figure out what our next move is,” said Solimano.
Killeen said some sales agreements were signed as far back as the fall of 2015, when some one-bedroom units in the project were selling for as little as $199,000.
While the buyers will likely get their down payments back, Killeen said that money has been sitting with no interest accruing.
The Bowra Group Inc., the court-appointed receiver in charge of untangling the condo project’s finances, has reported that a number of the units in the four-storey wood frame condo have been sold more than once, with 31 units sold twice, 12 units sold three times, and one unit sold four times.
The receiver recommended 40 of those 149 deals should be recognized and the buyers ought to be allowed to complete the deals.
The B.C. Supreme Court judge disagreed, saying it came down to the rights of the creditors, who would get more back if the units were sold at current market rates, versus the rights of the people who signed pre-sale agreements more than two years ago when real estate prices were lower.
Representatives of the project developer and the receiver did not immediately respond to Times requests for comment.