What exactly is the protocol if a seller were to deliberately misrepresent a property during a sale by failing to disclose the previous on-site homicide of one of its residents?
A recent case; Wang v. Shao, 2019 BCCA 130 sheds some light on the matter. The British Columbia Court of Appeal was requested to consider if this was indeed fraudulent misrepresentation on the vendor’s part.
While a case like this doesn’t arise too often, it still bears some looking into. The buyer’s rights are of the utmost importance. Here’s where it’s highly advantageous to have a residential or commercial real estate lawyer check on the history of your property before you put pen to paper.
At Duensing Law, I fully recognize that buying a home is likely the single largest investment that you’ll make in your lifetime. I am a trusted real estate lawyer in Toronto with the legal expertise to protect your interests from fraud or misrepresentation. Contact me and let’s work on getting you through your real estate transaction seamlessly – with no unpleasant surprises after!
Without further ado, let’s explore a buyer’s rights when the seller is being less than forthright.
The Details of Wang v. Shao
In the Fall of 2007, Mr. Raymond Huang was the victim of a fatal shooting on the sidewalk just by his property gate in the Shaughnessy area of Vancouver. The home at the time was owned by his mother-in-law, Ms. Wang.
The murder remained unsolved and soon after, Ms. Wang attempted to sell the property. Ms. Shao initiated the process to purchase it in 2009 for $6.9 million. When Ms. Shao learned of the incident, she immediately reneged from the deal. What followed was a lawsuit that saw Ms. Wang suing for breach of contract, whereupon Ms. Shao counter filed alleging fraudulent misrepresentation.
The court ruled in Ms. Shao’s favour, holding Ms. Wang liable for fraudulent misrepresentation among other charges. The buyer’s deposit along with accrued interest had to be returned.
Your Rights When Buying Property
In general, there are legal guidelines that mandate disclosures concerning a defect in the property. For non-physical issues like a violent crime, the law reverts to “caveat emptor” or buyers beware. Quebec does have a law in place to disclose unnatural deaths, in other provinces though, the law is blurry.
In Ontario, for instance, the seller does not have any legal obligation to reveal a murder on-site, unless the buyer specifically asks the seller. It’s up to the buyer and their realtor or lawyer to find out.
It pays to do extensive research prior to purchase. Over and above the obvious online address search, a prospective buyer should also speak to their would-be neighbours about the home and the neighbourhood in general.
Realtors in the province are ethically obligated to disclose a history of violence or the existence of stigmas to their clients at the earliest – as per the Ontario Real Estate Association.
Again, there is a lot of grey area here. It is not clear how far back the property’s history should be disclosed. In addition to that, tailing a property’s history is a murky affair especially if it has changed hands multiple times.
Be Sure That What You See is What You Get
Turn to a Trusted Real Estate Attorney in Toronto
Duensing Law is vigilant and knowledgeable in all matter of property-related cases. I use that expertise to help your transactions run smoothly.
For apartments, townhomes, houses and office spaces; Real estate transactions call for a lot of legal paperwork. It’s best to play it safe and get trusted legal counsel. My services include;
– Preparation, review and/or negotiation of purchase and sale agreements,
– Purchase and Sale of Residential Properties,
– Purchase and Sale of Condominiums,
– Purchase of New Homes and Condominiums (pre- and post-construction),
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– Transfer of title/ownership,
– Transfers by executors and trustees,
– Title Insurance,
– Registration and Deletion of Construction Liens,
– Co-ownership agreements and more!
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