A group of Sunchaser Vacation Villas owners and leaseholders have won the right to contest the imposition of a stark choice between two expensive fees at the resort development in Fairmont Hot Springs.
After being told one year ago to pay either a $4,195 per unit renovation project fee or a $3,168 opt-out fee for needed repairs — a set of fees that the B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Linda Loo ruled was fair last November — a group of Sunchaser owners and leaseholders won their appeal in a decision handed down last Friday, June 13th.
“We allow the appeal, and set aside the order of the chambers judge,” wrote B.C. Court of Appeal Madam Justices Kirkpatrick, Smith and Garson in a 17-page Reasons for Decision issued last Friday, after a hearing that took place on Monday, May 12th. “The appellants are entitled to their costs of the appeal. We make no order as to costs in the Supreme Court, but would leave that to the judge hearing the merits of the claims.”
About 950 owners, represented jointly by Victoria’s Cox Taylor law firm and Vancouver’s Geldert Law (court documents list the appellant as Jeke Enterprises Ltd., a company that owns several timeshare leases), are just a fraction of the 18,950 time shares available through the resort property, which includes Riverside Villas, Hillside Villas and Riverview Villas, all in Fairmont Hot Springs. In all, notes the Reasons for Decision, there are approximately 14,500 owners.
The units were built by Fairmont Resort Properties Ltd. between 1990 and 2009, at which point the company became insolvent and defaulted on its loans.
At that point, Calgary-based Northmont Resort Properties Ltd. — represented in the hearing last month by Philip K. Matkin Professional Corp. — took over the properties.
Consultants then identified many areas of the resort that needed renovation. The estimated cost for the renovations is disputed, but is said to be between $41 million and $50 million, according to the Reasons for Decision.
Fairmont Resort Properties Ltd. had never established or maintained a reserve fund to deal with repairs to the resort.
For Michael Geldert of Geldert Law, the successful appeal is a small victory in what’s been a difficult and ongoing process for his clients, many who are elderly.
“The intention seems to be to extract as much money from people as possible,” he said. “After one year, I don’t think we’re that much closer to getting the answers we need. The question is, are Northmont going to volunteer that information or are we going to have to keep taking this to court?”
“We expect they will try to represent information in a way that’s going to confuse people, which is regrettable,” he said, noting Northmont has used an Ontario-based law firm, Sauvageau and Associates, as their “debt collectors.”
“People who have never been served legal documents before, many in their 70s and 80s, are still receiving phone calls, despite asking that all calls be referred to their lawyer,” he said.
Edmonton’s Barry Jones, a timeshare owner in Fairmont since 1998, said he feels the renovation fee request is a breach of contract.
“I know we are not going to be using our two units this year with what they are demanding we pay for maintenance and renovation fees,” he said, noting several other owners will also be avoiding the property this summer. “We would spend about $1,500 per week in Fairmont, mostly on groceries, eating out, liquor and on the golf courses.”
“If they enter Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) protection as did their predecessors, it will probably affect many of the businesses in the valley,” he added. “We have enjoyed all of our vacations over there since 1998 and are disgusted with what the operator is attempting to do with the property.”
Representatives from Northmont could not be reached prior to The Valley Echo’s press deadline.