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Exterior of a condominium in the former Olympic Village in Vancouver on December 16th, 2010. (Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail)
Exterior of a condominium in the former Olympic Village in Vancouver on December 16th, 2010. (Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail)

Disgruntled condo owners dig in for long legal fight against Vancouver Add to ...

Vancouver and its unhappy Olympic village condo owners are digging in for a protracted battle, with city manager Penny Ballem saying that the city is prepared to fight the lawsuit they've launched vigorously.

"The city's been very clear that we don't intend to settle," Ms. Ballem said in a statement about the group of condo owners who started a lawsuit last month against the village's sales companies to get back what they paid for their units so they can move out. "This is largely about pre-sale owners trying to pressure us for discounted sales."

Legal documents filed in response to the lawsuit say that "none of these purchasers had previously complained" about problems throughout last fall. They didn't try to back out of their deposits, as a handful of other early purchasers did.

And they had a chance to inspect their completed units before they moved in.

The statement says the buyers filed a lawsuit only when other condos in the village went on sale at prices reduced by an average of 30 per cent in February, 2011, as the village's receiver launched a new marketing campaign for the village.

As well, the legal response notes that the units are now used, not new, so they could never "be resold for as much as if they had never been occupied."

On the other side, lawyer Bryan Baynham said he's now representing 70 buyers out of the 263 who bought before September, 2010, who claim they should be allowed out of their purchases and they also are expecting a tough fight.

"I didn't start this battle expecting the city would settle," said Mr. Baynham, who has represented groups of unhappy purchasers at other condo projects over the years.

Mr. Baynham, who filed lawsuits on behalf of 63 purchasers last month, claims the documents they got when they bought the condos didn't identify the city as the actual owner - a violation of current real-estate law. But the claim also says that the deficiencies in the buildings are so bad that the buyers should be able to get their money back and walk away.

Mr. Baynham produced a video to accompany the lawsuit last month that showed water coming in through ceiling lights, water pooling in parking garages, cracks in ceilings, doors that wouldn't close properly and more.

Ms. Ballem said that all the buyers got a chance to inspect their units before they moved in.

As well, she said, since the village went into receivership last November, receiver Ernst & Young has been scrambling to fix deficiencies that accumulated in the previous months as Peter and Shahram Malek of Millennium Development Corp. struggled to make their first $200-million mortgage payment.

In one case, the receiver's efforts involved not just moving one woman to a new unit while repairs were being done on hers, but moving her chandelier as well.

A spokesman for the receivers said seven crews are now available for repairs. It's not clear how much all of that will cost the city, as some money is being recovered through warranty and insurance programs, and the builders are doing some of the repairs as part of their obligations.

But Mr. Baynham said in an interview this week that the buyers got only an hour to look at the units. And he said there are still delays in getting things fixed, as owners are bounced back and forth between the receiver and the warranty provider.

He said he'll be filing a response to the city's response later this week, highlighting the fact that city is claiming that it was never the legal owner of the buildings, yet his clients' transfer documents identified the city as the owner.

Ultimately, he said, buyers are also stuck because, once all the units are sold, there will be no developer they can go to if future problems arise, the way most projects work.

Because of the complications surrounding the ownership structure, the condo buyers are suing the sales companies at the village rather than the city directly.

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