Don’t like your Olympic village deal? Call the condo litigator

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Miro Cernetig

The billion-dollar Olympic village has no shortage of hurdles to profitability: a runaway construction budget, the global banking crisis that panicked its mortgage lenders and a business model based on a post-Olympic real-estate spike yet to materialize.

But now there’s a new challenge — the condo litigators.

They look for people who have made hefty deposits on condos and want out of their contracts.

One of Vancouver’s key practitioners of this obscure legal art is Bryan Baynham, a star in the Harper Grey legal firm.

He says he’s already found 11 people — with deposits as high as $300,000 — who want out of their Olympic deals because they’re unhappy their unit’s washer-dryers aren’t in place, or the electric fireplaces aren’t up to snuff, or there isn’t as much park land around them as they hoped.

Now, the City of Vancouver, which holds the debt on the Olympic village and wants to see its condos sold quickly and at the highest price possible, is pooh-poohing this setback. The city suggests that 11 people getting cold feet out of 264 condo pre-sales isn’t a stampede. After all, it still means a 95-per-cent completion rate.

But the reality is things could get a little tougher if this become a trend. The city still has 437 of the Olympic village’s 737 condos left to sell. If Baynham’s legal challenge works, the city would have 448 condos to sell. And that number may still grow.

That’s because our local condo litigator hasn’t given up trolling for more clients hoping to bail on the Olympic village. In fact, Baynham’s website posits all sorts of worrying reasons, all unproven, why people may consider bailing on their condos. Here are a few snippets from his June 8 posting, entitled “Millennium Water Condo Development: You may not have to close.”

Baynham writes: “If you are a pre-sale purchaser in the controversial and financially-plagued Millennium Water Condo Development … and are being pressured to close, you might want to consider obtaining an opinion concerning your rights, obligations and options.”

He asks: “Has the project met your expectations? What really happened with the financing and does it affect your obligation to close? Where do things stand with respect to social/subsidized housing in the development?”

His website also consumes a lot of space telling buyers why the Olympic village may not be the winning real-estate deal some envisioned.

One of his theories is there may be a serious challenge to turning over units after closing their sales. He writes: “The Millennium has released more units for sale. If you plan to sell your unit shortly after closing, you may well be selling into a falling market in competition with the developer’s marketing machine. …”

Baynham also raises the prospect of the Olympic village filling up with — gasp! — renters, not people who own their own units: “More than one pre-sale purchaser has expressed concern to us that Millennium/the City may have no alternative but to rent unsold units.

“In any event, it appears that many of the units have been, or will be acquired as an investment, with the intention that the unit be rented for the foreseeable future. If that turns out to be the case, do you want to own/live in a development where the Strata Corporation is controlled by the developer/investors, as opposed to owners who live in their units?”

Now, people have the right to seek legal advice and search for ways to get out of a condo contract. And a lawyer is justified in drumming up business where he or she can find it. You may not always like it, but it’s the system.

But Vancouver taxpayers should pay attention to this. If real-estate speculators start to see this as a way of wiggling out of condo deals, figuring their Olympic village gambles aren’t going to be the easy money they thought, it could be a serious blow to making good on Vancouver’s $1-billion investment.

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One Response to “Don’t like your Olympic village deal? Call the condo litigator”

  1. G says:

    be careful, these lawyers are sharks and the same firm has screwed me with unfulfilled promisses and no results but large bills