A group of property owners are looking to take legal action against their condo board after multiple problems with their rebuild.
The Hillview Park Condominium, located in Abasand, was one of many neighbourhoods devasted by the wildfire with only 14 of the 214 units surviving.
Thirty residents are teaming up to hire a lawyer after being told by Hillview that they each needed to contribute $30,000 by April 18 to help cover a damage assessment of the properties.
This comes after their rebuild was halted in August 2017.
Already Facing Legal Action
Hillview, SPECS, and Board Chair Charles Scott are in a legal battle with Viceroy Construction Ltd.
According to court documents, the B.C. company is suing the board for $23 million, SPECS for $16.5 million, and Scott for $14.9 million for having their contract terminated and for not paying for additional work done.
In October 2016, Viceroy was given the job of reconstructing the complex by building materials for the build and sending it to the construction team. At the same time, SPECS was also hired to act as a consultant for the project – which the documents state was a breach of the contract
According to multiple property owners, the relationship between Viceroy and Hillview deteriorated after members of the board flew out to B.C. and demanded to be fully lavished. Receipts given to Mix News show they dined at 5-star restaurants while enjoying massages – all at the expense of Viceroy.
Starting in April 2017, the B.C. company stopped receiving payments for their supplies and work. The board was given a warning to pay in August or else all work would be suspended.
Construction eventually was halted after word of a stop work order from the RMWB started floating around.
This after concerns of the water service to the site not being operational. In the court documents, it explains that Viceroy tried to install an interim water supply, however, construction was still put on a standstill.
In an email sent to Mix News, the municipality says no such order was ever given – meaning work was stopped voluntarily.
Their contract was eventually terminated in August.
Viceroy was contacted but never responded.
Meanwhile, Hillview is denying all allegations. In a statement of defence, they note they haven’t ‘failed to pay’ while Viceroy had also overcharged for their extra work.
“Despite repeated requests, Viceroy failed or refused throughout its time on the project to submit appropriate and adequate applications for progress payments, which delayed the project and SPECS’ ability to approve payment,” the statement read.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
Lack of Trust With Hillview
Becky Benoit is one of the 30 property owners looking at taking legal against the board.
She currently lives outside of Fort McMurray but continues to pay mortgage payments on a home that doesn’t exist.
“We were absolutely shocked to be advised by two different lawyers that we should walk away from this build,” Benoit said.
Along with their mortgage payments, rent, and other expenses, each owner was asked to contribute $30,000 for a $6 million loan. The money was borrowed to help repair the damage the elements did on the property while work had stopped.
Benoit says this would have to come out of their own wallet as the condo’s insurance wouldn’t cover it.
“They’ll pay for work once but they won’t pay twice.”
The Canadian Red Cross has set up a program after negotiating with Hillview to help cover the costs, however, only a few were eligible. Red Cross is still encouraging owners to contact them to see if additional supports can be given.
“A lot of us aren’t comfortable handing a huge amount of cash over to our board knowing that with an assessment there’s no oversight, so the money goes right into their bank account and they can do whatever they want with it,” added Benoit.
A lawyer has advised them to not pay the assessment and instead put the money they raised into a trust fund until there’s confirmation that the assessment is valid.
To keep up with legal payments – the condo owners have set up a GoFundMe page.
Mix News tried to contact Hillview to see if they would comment on the owner’s legal action but didn’t receive a response.