A British Columbia senior who spent more than $3.4 million building a home on the Sunshine Coast has been granted an injunction against the property’s former co-owner, who contributed just $115,000 to the project.
Maria Sandberg-Jones and the two men she bought the property from in May 2020, Leslie Thomson and Andrew Press, are involved in ongoing cross-claims and counterclaims in B.C. Supreme Court .
Although the case is still ongoing, Judge Anita Chan earlier this month granted an injunction forcing Thomson & Press to vacate the property, allowing Jones to sell the property and recoup some of his investment. Become.
According to Chan’s decision announced on January 10th, posted online this weekJones is the sole registered owner of the property.
This was not the case when the trio first purchased the Gibsons property. Jones was originally registered as owning an undivided one-quarter interest in the property, with the remainder owned by numbered company 1251078 BC Ltd., managed by Thomson & Press Ltd. .
The plan was to build a house on the property with a separate suite for Jones, then 74, to live in as he aged. Her part was to occupy one-third of the area of the house, and the remainder was to be occupied by Thomson and Press, who were to occupy the remaining two-thirds.
Jones became sole owner in November 2021, when the parties were seeking construction financing. Although the two sides dispute the exact circumstances that led to Mr. Jones acquiring all of his assets, the court’s ruling indicates that Mr. Thomson and Press had poor creditworthiness and that the banks were willing to finance Mr. Jones. It shows.
Ms Thomson and Ms Press have lived in a mobile home on the property since July 2021, and the court ruling suggests there are also several storage containers for their belongings on the property.
Chan’s decision shows that Jones relied on using his retirement savings and borrowing money from friends to continue paying off the construction loan. Mr Thomson and Mr Press have not made regular contributions to the joint account set up for the project since January 2023, significantly more than what Mr Jones claims they had agreed to pay before then. had made a small donation.
“To date, Ms. Jones has spent approximately $3.47 million on purchasing land and constructing a home,” Chan’s decision states.
“Mr. Thomson and Mr. Press paid approximately $115,000.”
Although the defendants claim that Ms. Jones knew from the beginning that she would pay for the construction and that Thomson & Press would repay it over time, Ms. Jones’ lawsuit alleges that Ms. Jones’ The lawsuit accuses the two of misrepresenting their financial ability to buy land and build homes. she.
Jones’ claims and the defendants’ counterclaims have not yet been decided. Mr Chan’s decision dealt with Mr Jones’ application for a preliminary injunction barring Mr Thomson and Mr Press from entering the premises and preventing them from completing construction of the house.
“Mr. Jones will no longer be able to afford to live in the house once it is completed,” Chan’s decision states. “She needs to sell the property before she defaults on the RBC construction loan. She has been told by her real estate agent that she should list the property now while Mr. Thomson and Mr. Press are still living on the property. We were advised that the best price would not help us achieve our goals. ”
“She must be sold.”
Courts employ a three-part test when deciding whether to grant an injunction. For an injunction to be successful, the party seeking the injunction must first show that it has a “prima facie” case, meaning that it is likely that its entire claim will ultimately prevail. It won’t.
If a strong prima facie case is established, the judge must determine that the injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to the party seeking the injunction.
Finally, if there is a strong prima facie case and irreparable harm is likely to occur in the absence of an injunction, the judge will ask whether the “balance of convenience” favors granting an injunction. You have to decide whether.
In this case, Mr. Chan concluded that all three parts of the test were met.
According to the judgment, the defendants claim that Mr. Jones acquired sole ownership of the property through an oral agreement in which he held two-thirds of the property in trust to Thomson & Press. Mr. Jones disputes that such an agreement exists.
Chan said the issue of the existence of a trust is “an important issue to be decided at trial” in the case. However, the judge concluded that even if such a trust existed, there was “strong evidence” that the defendant had breached its terms.
“After a preliminary review of the case, we are satisfied that the law and the evidence presented make it likely that the plaintiffs will ultimately be successful in proving the allegations set forth in the civil claim notice at trial. ” the decision reads.
Regarding the possibility of irreparable harm, Chan pointed out that even if Jones ultimately wins his case, it is unlikely that the defendants will be able to pay Jones a significant amount of compensation. did.
At the same time, Mr. Chan realized that even if Mr. Jones were able to sell the property, he might not be able to recover the full amount of his investment.
“There is evidence that Plaintiff has already suffered irreparable financial harm,” the ruling states. “Defendants obtained an appraisal of the property in October 2023, which valued it at $2.85 million. Evidence shows that plaintiff has invested approximately $3.47 million.”
The judge noted that Jones’ current expenses were about $2,000 a month more than her income and that she “needed to sell the property as soon as possible to cut her losses.”
“If the injunction is not granted, the plaintiff will have suffered irreparable harm,” the judgment states.
Ultimately, Mr Chan concluded that it was a balance of convenience to grant the injunction.
The defendants argued that the property was their “dream home” and that granting the injunction would end their hopes of living there, but Mr Chan was not convinced.
“With all due respect, I do not believe that the defendant’s argument is persuasive,” the judgment read. “I don’t see why they can’t buy the property from the plaintiffs if the defendants have the funds.”
More important than maintaining access to Press and Thomson’s properties while the litigation progresses, the plaintiffs need to eliminate unsustainable expenses being caused by the properties, Chan said. It was judged.
“If the injunction is not granted, Plaintiff will continue to suffer the stress and anxiety of mounting costs, and when she is unable to make the monthly payments on RBC’s construction loan, her property will be foreclosed on,” the court ruled. . To read.
“Plaintiffs will receive less in the foreclosure sale. Even if plaintiffs ultimately prevail in this case based on the evidence, they will not be able to recover damages from defendants.”
Certificate of pending litigation
In addition to granting the injunction, Mr. Chang provided that Mr. Jones post a bond of $115,000 to effectuate the revocation, as well as the pending litigation certificate that the defendants placed on title to the property. I ordered that the book be canceled.
The $115,000 figure represents the defendant’s contribution to the estate to date, which can be paid with the proceeds from the sale.