Former PM Kim Campbell suing Vancouver developers over tardy condo

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Former prime minister Kim Campbell attends a gala breakfast in Halifax as plans to build a replica of the Titanic are revealed in Halifax on Friday, March 1, 2013. Clive Palmer, chairman of Blue Star Line, plans to build the Titanic II and sail it from Southampton to New York in 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell is suing a Vancouver luxury condominium developer, alleging in a suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court that she is entitled to have a prepaid deposit returned with interest and her contract with the developer is no longer enforceable because her suite was not delivered on time.

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Ms. Campbell claims to have paid a deposit of $368,000 on a private residence at a redeveloped site next to the Hotel Georgia, developed by Georgia Properties Partnership, Georgia Trust and Georgia Hotel Management Limited. The developer began taking pre-orders on suites in 2007, based on an estimated time of completion of December, 2011.

But the project completion date was extended several times, most recently in December 2012. Occupancy permits, the city-issued document required before a tenant can move into a new residence, were finally granted in January of this year.

Ms. Campbell alleges that the developers failed to notify buyers that the project would not be completed on time by amending the original disclosure statement of her contract details, as they are required by law to do. A disclosure statement clearly lays out the terms of a contract, and the province requires that developers provide a written amendment to buyers if contractual details change, such as the completion date.

“Once the developer knows, or ought to know, that the estimated completion date is wrong, they have a positive obligation to file an amended disclosure statement telling each of the purchasers of the revised date,” said Bryan Baynham, Ms. Campbell’s lawyer.

Mr. Baynham, who also represents 12 other buyers suing the developers of the private residences at Hotel Georgia, said that an amended disclosure statement was not provided until three days after he filed the first suit in May, 2012, violating provincial law and subsequently voiding the contract. He said that some of his clients have been forced to find alternative living arrangements, but he does not know where Ms. Campbell is currently residing.

Though it’s not uncommon for large development projects to be completed late, it becomes problematic if the value of a residence decreases from when a deposit is made to when buyers can finally move in.

“The problem emerges when real estate falls,” said Mr. Baynham. “People have put money down on a place at a certain market value expecting to move in, but if it’s late, and the place is now worth less, they can’t walk away without taking a loss or trying to get the deposit back.” Since 2009, Mr. Baynham’s firm, Harper Grey, has represented over 300 Vancouver residents in cases against developers delivering late, he said.

But Kenneth McEwan, lawyer for the group of companies behind the project, said that when buyers put a deposit down in 2007, they did so knowing that the original agreement had an “outside completion date,” or the most liberal estimate of how long the development will take, of mid-2013. Mr. McEwan will be filing a statement of defense on Friday, or at latest Monday, that outlines that Ms. Campbell’s contract with the developer was extended at least three times, always with the understanding that the contract would remain enforceable.

“There were a number of contract extensions, at least one on the request of Ms. Campbell herself, made upon the basis that the contract remained enforceable,” said Mr. McEwan. “So to turn around and now say, ‘it’s unenforceable,’ we say that the extensions and confirmation that it is enforceable stands in the way of that.”

Ms. Campbell’s case will go to trial in January, 2014. Mr. Baynham says that win or lose, none of his clients will be moving into the Hotel Georgia.