Dear Matt: Looking at buying my first place.... Lawsuits?!

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Dear Matt,

I'm looking at buying my first condo in Ottawa and my search keeps bringing me to a particular building. I love the central location and the prices aren't as high as the new builds I've seen. I have been told that it has a lawsuit against the builder, any idea on that?

I'm wondering if you have any more information about situations like this and weather it is a bad idea to bad in a building that has a lawsuit or other issues.




Hi Taylor:

Right off the bat, talk to your lawyer. If/when you decide to move forward, you will include a condition in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS) that allows your lawyer time to review the status certificate and documents. During this period, you will be able to find out much more detailed information about the condo corporation, building by-laws, financial history, and any projected increases in fees, among other things. 

HOWEVER. Lawyers are hired by you, to save you from any trouble. Think guardian angel sorta domain. So when it comes time to choose your lawyer, be very picky on who you have standing in your corner. Ideally you want someone who is local, who is not afraid to tell you the issues, but is able to remove judgement from the issues and not scare you. Great example is also the building inspector, who is also working for you to find issues and give you information. A good building inspector can tell you all the issues without saying personal judgement - "Don't buy this", "I love this builder", These renovations look horrible",  "I would live here" etc. You want facts. Not emotion. A good lawyer will tell you the facts without trying to scare you. 

That being said, purchasing a unit while knowing that there are issues in the building is a risk. Lawsuits are not "cut and dry" and it can go either way. It can be resolved and the building/condo corporation gets what it wants, or the builder can win and certain costs could be picked up by the owners in a special assessment or increase in condo fees.

You need to fully understand the issues, get the facts, listen to the professionals who you hire to look out for you, and know if you are comfortable taking a risk like this or not.