'A cautionary tale': Legal battle erupts over alleged $20K typo in New West condo sale

An alleged $20,000 typo has sparked a bitter legal battle over the sale of a New Westminster condo.

The fight is between Chris Dupuis — a prominent notary public who oversaw the sale — and his former clients, Colleen and Michael Kendall, who hired him to do the conveyance or property transfer. 

A lawsuit by Dupuis and a counterclaim by the Kendalls revolve around an alleged mistake in the final price of the condo  — a self-confessed "clerical error" by Dupuis, a director of the Society of Notaries Public of B.C.

The amount paid by the buyer was purportedly recorded at $664,000, when the real sale price was $644,000 — $20,000 less.

Colleen Kendall says the resulting fight over the $20,000 is a "cautionary tale" for anyone involved in a property transaction.

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"My God, just when we thought this is a new start, now we've got this to deal with," said Kendall, 65. "I was speechless, absolutely speechless and disgusted."

She says she had hoped the sale of their New West condo would lead to a smooth semi-retirement in their new home in Campbell River. Now, Dupuis is asking the courts for a stake in that home until the dispute is resolved. 

For his part, their former notary public also isn't happy the dispute has ended up in court.

"I was disappointed and disheartened by that to say the least," said Dupuis.

Claims and counterclaims

In a civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme court, Dupuis alleges the higher price was paid out of his trust account to the Kendalls before he realized the error, giving his clients $20,000 more than he received from the buyer.

Dupuis claims when he told the Kendalls about the overpayment, they "refused or neglected to return the money."

He's suing the Kendalls for the $20,000 and asking the courts to give him a "beneficial interest" in the new home they went on to purchase in Campbell River.

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The Kendalls have filed a counterclaim against Dupuis, alleging they never refused to pay — but didn't receive an adequate explanation of the "alleged error" and were concerned about "simply paying $20,000 … without any questions asked." 

In turn, they're suing their former notary for negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties — the legal obligation to act in their best interest.

They're also seeking damages for mental distress.

Both sides seem surprised the typo tussle has escalated so quickly into claims and counter claims.

Legal trouble timeline

The trouble began not long after the sale of the Kendall's New West condo was completed May 15.

On June 28, Dupuis alleges his staff advised the Kendalls of the $20,000 overpayment "and requested the return of the funds as soon as possible."

By July 3, he claims he sent a letter "clearly and fully explaining the typographical error," and "provided supporting documentation."

But on July 6, Dupuis alleges the Kendalls advised him they had retained a lawyer, then fell silent.

On July 29, one month after the couple were first informed of the overpayment, the notary commenced legal action.   The Kendalls countersued on Sept. 4, claiming they were unable to respond prior to Dupuis starting court action because of a death in the family.

'It escalated so quickly'

"It was just stunning to me. And it escalated so quickly," said Colleen Kendall. 

Their former notary says he felt he had no choice — because the Kendalls hired a lawyer shortly after he asked for the money back.

"I expected this could be dealt with in an amicable way," said Dupuis in a statement emailed to CBC News. 

The Kendalls are especially irked Dupuis is now claiming an interest in their new home in Campbell River.

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Their former notary alleges "all or a portion" of the $20,000 was used to complete the purchase of that property. Instead, the semi-retired couple claim the money was put into long term-investments that can't be redeemed without penalty.

In addition to their counterclaim, they've filed a formal complaint against Dupuis with the Society of Notaries Public of B.C., the profession's governing body.

The society says it "will generally wait for the conclusion of any legal action" prior to considering complaints.

Legal costs mounting

Despite the entrenched positions in their lawsuits, both sides seem surprised to be at legal loggerheads.

"The stress level is extremely high," said Kendall. "Legal costs are mounting up with the threat of going to court and trial, which is not what we want."

Their former notary echoes that sentiment.

"It remains my hope that the court proceedings will not be necessary and that we can deal with this matter as reasonable people."     The allegations and counter-allegations haven't been proven in court.

A trial date over the alleged $20,000 typo has yet to be set.