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Local condo corporation facing $23M lawsuit

Last Updated Mar 16, 2018 at 9:52 am MDT

PHOTO. The Hillview Condo Corporation is being sued for $23M for firing Viceroy Construction, the former builder. Jenna Hamilton/ MORNING REPORTER.

EDITOR: An earlier published version of this article incorrectly made a single reference to Viceroy Homes, a legal entity dissolved in a 2015 bankruptcy, emerging as Viceroy Houses Ltd. Viceroy Construction Ltd., the subject of this story, is the construction division of Viceroy Houses Ltd.  Viceroy Houses Ltd. is not a party to the legal action referenced in this story.

 

The Hillview Condo Corporation has been slapped with a $23,136,055 lawsuit after terminating their contract with a builder in August 2017. The Hillview Condo is a 214-townhouse complex in Abasand that burnt down in the 2016 Wildfire.

Sheila Champion, who owns a unit in the complex, said she no longer has trust in the board to make the right decisions regarding the rebuild or the lawsuit.

“I would like the bank to say ‘give us your keys and we will deal with it when it is rebuilt, I don’t want it, just take it back and let me stop paying. We can’t even do that, we have to file bankruptcy. You have to ruin your life to avoid ruining your life.”

Champion added, “For us, the fire wasn’t the disaster, this is the disaster.”

Disputed stop work order

Viceroy Construction Ltd. (*), a company from Vancouver, B.C. was selected to rebuild the condominiums in October 2016.

According to messages from the board to condominium owners, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had issued a stop work order that shut the site down, because there was no fire water.

However, the RMWB told MyMcMurray that no stop work order was ever issued for the properties. The RMWB Safety Codes Manager, Damon McGillivray, indicated only a verbal warning for correction was given to the property.

In a message to owners on August 31, 2017, the Hillview Board said they had terminated Viceroy’s right to continue work on the project because the company was in default of the CCDC2 contract.

In September, Viceroy placed an $8,218,926.06 and a $4,983,757.93 lien on the property for work not yet complete.

In court documents from Viceroy, initially filed on October 13, 2017, the company claimed the Hillview Condo Corporation was at fault for wrongfully terminating the contract.

Viceroy indicated, “the board’s action constituted wrongful termination because they prevented Viceroy from exercising its right to perform work under the contract without any legal basis for doing so.”

Frustrated Owners

Becky Benoit owns one of the condominiums says it was recommended she walk away from the property.

“There are $56,000 worth of liens on the property and it hasn’t even been rebuilt. We were advised to walk away from our mortgage even though we have never been late on a payment, we have never missed a condo fee, we have never been late on anything,” said Benoit. “We can’t afford to keep doing it and there is no way out of it apparently.”

The owners who spoke to MyMcMurray said the only way they can communicate with the board is through an online tool called ‘GeniePad.’

A condominium owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing retribution, said she has sent in numerous questions.

“My board won’t even tell me what is going on. I’ve sent questions in and they don’t get answered. So there is all kind of stuff going on behind the scenes and nobody knows about it,” said the source. Several owners complained the board was not sharing minutes of meetings and board business, as Alberta law requires.

Work stoppage adds costs

Since terminating Viceroy, the work site sat open to the elements and now requires repairs. The board has hired a new contractor, Calmac Developments Ltd., to perform the repairs and complete the build.

Initially advised the repair work would cost just $4 to $5 million, owners were instead presented with a repair estimate from Calmac Developments Ltd. of $6,080,030.25.

According to messages from the board they are allegedly counter-suing Viceroy for the costs of the re-work, MyMcMurray reached out to multiple board members for comment; Devin Wentzell responded and said they were advised to not speak with the media.

Meanwhile, owner Sheila Champion can’t believe what’s happening, “it’s crazy, it’s crazy what’s happening and I don’t know how we’re going to find a way out of it. All I can do is hope that somebody, somewhere, with some pull, will hear the story and say holy (expletive), these people need help, let’s help them.”