Maggie and Jim thought they would be moved into their new homes at the Murrayville House condominium project in Langley by September at the latest.
Instead, with the project in legal limbo and their move-in on hold, they’ve been scrambling to find temporary accommodation and racking up thousands of dollars in unexpected debt.
The two buyers agreed to be interviewed by The Times about their experience with the troubled project on condition their real names were not used.
Both are concerned about getting dragged into the multiple lawsuits flying around the 92-unit building, which has been placed under receivership by the provincial Superintendent of Real Estate.
The Superintendent has issued a “consumer alert” telling buyers of units in the 92-suite project to get professional advice from a lawyer and also a real estate broker as well as contact the superintendent’s office.
READ MORE: Consumer alert issued about Langley condominium project
Maggie and Jim bought separate units in the condominium at 5020 221A Street and sold their homes in July and August because they were told by Newmark, the builder of the project, that the move-in was finally going to happen after many postponements.
“It kept on being bumped and bumped and bumped,” Maggie said.
“We kept asking the developer when we could move in.”
She said the location and relatively low price were selling points, with some units selling for around $200,000 when they went on sale two years ago.
As a retired person, she liked that the project was near the hospital and within walking distance of a shopping mall with a grocery store.
“Everything was very convenient.”
After putting off selling his home because of the delays, Jim said he finally told Newmark “I have to have a closing date.”
He got a phone call from a Newmark customer relations person, who said it would be the end of July, so he sold.
Then, the move-in was delayed yet again.
“I thought, maybe (I’d spend) a few days in a hotel,” Jim said.
It turned out to be two months.
Jim estimates he paid $10,000 in hotel bills between August and September, starting with a stay at a Holiday Inn then moving to a less expensive motel.
“You don’t ask for a monthly rate (at a hotel) because you don’t think it will be that long,” Maggie said.
Maggie estimated she’s spent about $5,000 so far, not just on temporary accommodation, but on storage fees and other unexpected expenses, like having to buy cold-weather clothing because “the seasons have changed and your boots are in storage.”
Renting is not a realistic option because most landlords want a minimum of a one-year lease, the buyers said.
As well, Jim has two cats and Maggie has a dog, which makes finding a rental even more difficult.
At one point, Jim even considered buying another condo, just to have a place while he waits for the Murrayville House mess to get sorted out, but decided not to proceed.
Maggie and Jim said they know at least two Murrayville House owners who have done exactly that, bought another condo in another community while they wait.
She’s been house-sitting for a friend, but that will come to an end shortly and says she will have to find a bed and breakfast to stay at.
“I’ve run out of friends who are going on holidays,” she says.
Jim is planning to move in with a golfing buddy.
The buyers have been getting getting regular updates from the receiver, and Maggie praises the contact person as “approachable and forthcoming.”
She said what is happening at Murrayville House is the result of treating housing like a commodity.
“I’m indignant,” she said.
“You can’t comprehend how a situation like this can happen.”
On Oct. 4, a B.C. Supreme Court ruling put the Bowra Group Inc. in charge of the troubled Murrayville House condo complex, which has sat empty while creditors complain the company that owns it owes them millions of dollars that it has failed to pay.
Legal action has been taken by the lenders of Murrayville House, and there are liens against the property for unpaid trades.
Court documents filed with the B.C. Supreme Court registry in New Westminster allege debts in excess of $16 million.
Lawyer Grant Sutherland, of Sutherland & Company, who is representing Murrayville House builder Newmark Life owned by Mark Chandler, said the company was unable to transfer units to buyers because of the court actions.
READ MORE: Developer of troubled Murrayville House condo complex responds to disgruntled buyers
Appointed under the Real Estate Development Marketing Act (REDMA), the Bowra Group Inc., a Vancouver accounting firm with expertise in insolvency and restructuring, has been named the receiver and manager “of the assets, undertakings and properties” of principal owner Mark Chandler, of Newmark, doing business as 0981478 B.C. Ltd.
Documents filed with the B.C. Supreme Court registry in New Westminster show as of mid-September, 90 of the 92 units had been purchased.
Prior to the receivership order, the Superintendent of Real Estate issued a cease-marketing order to the owners.
In a Nov. 3 update posted online by The Bowra Group, the receiver said it was in the process of “obtaining quotes from a qualified construction builder (to) complete the remaining work to satisfy the requirements of the Township of Langley (“TOL”) and obtaining final occupancy permits.
The Receiver said it plans to have its first report to the court completed and filed on or before Nov. 17, adding “we anticipate having a court hearing soon after filing our report.”
The search for a contractor comes after a meeting of Bowra with representatives of the Township of Langley “regarding the project, in general, and the remaining work to be completed at the development property.”
The receiver has also categorically denied rumours suggesting that Bowra may be canceling all of the presale contracts and will be re-marketing the project and selling all of the units.
“This is not true” the receiver said.
But some contracts may be canceled.
Bowra also said that while the builder’s legal counsel has informed them”that they only have one presale contract and deposit for each unit … we believe that there may be units with more than one presale contract.”
“Once we have reviewed all of the resale contracts, we will have to cancel some contracts, as we cannot sell the same unit to more than one purchaser,” the statement said.
An online profile of Newmark president Mark Chandler describes the company as “a full-service real estate development and construction company with over three decades of experience in building homes of distinction, from mid-rise boutique dwellings to high-rise concrete towers, as well as commercial, recreational and retail properties throughout British Columbia, California and Arizona.”
Ramin Seifi, manager of engineering and community development for the Township, said no other projects have been submitted by Newmark to the Township aside from Murrayville House.