New rules allowing B.C. condo buildings to be sold without unanimous approval heading to Supreme Court

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New rules allowing B.C. condo buildings to be sold without unanimous approval heading to Supreme Court

A Vancouver man with cerebral palsy is being forced out of his home in one of the first condo building sales in the province to be held under new rules that allow owners to sell without a unanimous vote.

Bob Taylor, 69, lives at Twelve Oaks complex, an older low-rise building in Vancouver's tree-lined Fairview neighbourhood. 

But when a numbered company eager to develop the site offered $21.5 million, or twice the building's assessed value, to purchase the property, 28 of the 30 owners in the building voted to sell. 

Taylor was one of the two who wanted to stay.

"It's been quite stressful, especially for my wife she has to do all the work," he said.

"We moved in in 1978, We've renovated the apartment to our suiting and now all of a sudden now we have to hand it over to someone else." 

Under provincial rules enacted in July 2016, an agreement is needed from 80 per cent of owners to sell a property. Before, regulations required unanimity from owners before a sale could go forward.

'Roller-coaster ride'

"Be prepared for a stressful time. It's a roller-coaster ride," he said.

He says the offer "thrilled" most owners, but frustrated a few who were fighting for more money.

"At the end of the day everybody will make more than they would on the market," said Roy Mitchell, vice president of the building's strata council, adding some owners will get close to double the assessed value of their condo.

But owners warn of pitfalls, including that the process has taken more than a year to complete.

Initially some thought they'd be compensated based on square-footage, but valuations of their properties were instead based on the 2016 tax assessment of each unit's value, causing tension.

They were also worried that challenging those assessments could delay or even kill the lucrative deal.

But Valerie Connelly was one of four owners who eventually went to a hearing, arguing the B.C. Assessment value assigned to her unit was wrong. They claimed the organization relied on faulty market data, incorrect square footage measurements and renovation information.

"Somebody needs to hold B.C. Assessment accountable," said Connelly, who failed to win changes that would have increased the assessed value of her unit by as much as $100,000.

Taylor's two-bedroom was assessed at 15 per cent lower than smaller units because it faces a busy street. 

But, the loss means more than money, as he's loathe to leave the home he's customized to cope with his disability. 

Original owners

Taylor and his wife feel forced out of a building they bought into when it opened 44 years ago, and say they won't be able to find one so close to Vancouver General Hospital. 

They're also worried about buying a new condo only to go through the same process again. 

"[It feels] terrible — especially after we're the longest tenants — we've been here 39 years," he said. 

"Now all of a sudden now we have to hand it over to someone else."

Taylor says his experience is a warning for owners.

"I don't think people realize what they are giving up."

The case heads to B.C. Supreme Court on March 20, when a judge will decide if the sale will close as expected in May.

B.C. Assessment officials refused to comment on the case, but did confirm that only one to two per cent of property owners ever challenge property assessments.

There are at least 50 buildings in the Lower Mainland in discussions about similar sales with the Vancouver law firm Lawson Lundell.

Taylor says this experience has changed his understanding of a "forever" home.

He's frustrated watching his wife pack his model ships, unable to help or promise that they won't have to move again.