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 Posted in    |  on February 19th, 2016  |  by

Sunchaser Villas test case hearing in Vancouver wraps up

A test case for the long-running Sunchaser Villas class action lawsuit was heard in the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver in January, and those on both sides of the legal battle are now waiting for a ruling.
The test case was held from January 4th to 22nd and a judgement in the matter from Judge Shelley Fitzpatrick is not expected for at least several weeks.
Cox-Taylor law firm lawyer Lindsey Leblanc represented the timeshare owner claimants in court during the three weeks, and confirmed that the test case hearing had wrapped up, but could not tell The Pioneer more, saying that “as this matter is before the court awaiting judgment, we will not be commenting at this time.”
Similarly, Northwynds Resort Properties Ltd. (the defendant) chief executive officer Kurt Wankel said that “as judgment was reserved to a later date, it remains an ongoing legal process and we have no further comment.”
The legal battle began almost three years ago, in April 2013, when more than 1,000 timeshare owners (a figure that has now grown to more than 3,200 individual timeshare owners) at Sunchaser Villas entered into a class-action lawsuit against Northmont Resort Properties Ltd. in a dispute over a costly renovation project and the associated fees charged at the 18,950-unit villas. Northmont is a subsidiary company of Northwynd Resort Properties Ltd.
The claimants alleged that, among other things, the renovation fees greatly exceed the regular maintenance expenses laid out in the timeshare agreements; that the fees have been improperly charged for expenses not incurred in the past three years and which may not ever be incurred; that the fees include renovation expenses for buildings that Northmont has not and does not intend to renovate or that Northmont seeks to remove from the resort for its own use; and that Northmont
has used the fees for purposes other than the renovation project for which they are ostensibly being charged.
Although Mr. Wankel did not offer further comment on the matter, he did send The Pioneer a copy of an update letter on the trial sent to Sunchaser Villas timeshare owners on February 1st.
The letter outlines that the hearing was a test case rather than the full class-action lawsuit (advanced by one timeshare owner, not the entire group) and pointed out that while it may provide precedent-setting value to other owners, it was ultimately an individual action.
“We are pleased with the performance of our legal counsel and our witnesses in presenting our side of the story and our position that we have acted reasonably in the discharge of our duties as manager of the resort. We feel the physical evidence, including the many communications we have provided to our owner, was compelling and supportive. We entered the proceedings believing the delinquent owners’s position was without merit and we exited steadfast in that position,” reads the letter. “Further the Supreme Court of British Columbia process exposed the other side’s claim. By the end of the three weeks, the other side had abandoned multiple allegations and made numerous admissions that speak to other allegations made.”
The letter continues that the company’s best guess as to when a ruling can be expected is that it won’t come until at least late March, but conceded there could be quite a bit of variability in the timing. It then adds that in the meantime it’s business as usual at the resort, and reminds owners that they are still responsible for paying their maintenance fees.
The Pioneer attempted to reach the claimants’ main lawyer, Michael Geldert, for comment on the matter, but was unable to do so prior to press deadline. He had previously told The Pioneer that “the timeshare industry has always seemed to have issues with resort managers who, for whatever reason find themselves between a rock and a hard place, and they start making decisions that ultimately attract some liability and concern on behalf of the people they are responsible for managing.”
The Sunchaser Villas are in Fairmont Hot Springs.

Steve Hubrecht
Email: steve@columbiavalleypioneer.com
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Reporter Steve Hubrecht arrived in the Columbia Valley after working for newspapers in Fernie, B.C., and Beijing, China. He spends as much time outside as possible – if he's not at the Pioneer and Echo office, he's probably out telemarking or hiking. He grew up in southern Ontario and graduated with an MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario in 2006.

5 Responses to Sunchaser Villas test case hearing in Vancouver wraps up

  1. John Fehr says:

    Clearly, Sunchaser had the judge in their pocket and Their lawyers are taking this ruling and running over the “delinquents” with it. But hold the horses, folks. This isn’t over yet. Other individual non-test cases are staring to emerge as time goes on. Don’t cave and stay tuned!

  2. john fehr says:

    The case of the owners vs Northwynd isn’t over yet. Lindsay R. LeBlanc of http://www.coxtaylor.ca/our_lawyers.html is apparently proceeding with an appeal of the ruling in the test case against Northwynd.

    • Glen Horvath says:

      How is this processing? We have just received a demand for payment (June/16) and wondering if this is just a means of intimidating owners to pay or how legal this is.

  3. Richard Johnson says:

    As I read it the timeshare owners lost this test case and the Court of Appeal confirmed that.

    As noted in the judgment, many owners either paid up or paid the fee to walk away and Northmont is chasing those who have done neither. Appears the courts agree Northmont’s approach was valid so you may want to pay one or the other. (Disclosure: my relative is a timeshare owner and chose to pay the renovation fee)

  4. J.M. says:

    There is a long ways to go in this battle!

    It has only just begun. The latest Chapter being the recent hearing in Edmonton, Alberta where Sunchaser is trying to get money from Alberta Time Share Consumers. The next hearing date is May 1st, 2017 at 9am.

    Over 260 people attended the last hearing there and it was plain to see that Sunchaser has a huge problem on their hands. A public relations problem is just one small part of it!

    The Consumers feel as if they have been backed into a corner. They believe they are not responsible for major capital costs to repair the buildings. Costs in the tens of millions of dollars. They state they only signed with agreements to purchase the “time to use” and for unit upgrades as needed plus funds to maintain/operate the resort.

    The “Time Share Consumers” don’t own any of the property, they simply bought time. Similar to a lease or rental.

    They argue why should they (Lesee’s) fix it and not benefit from it? Is that not the responsibility of the Landlord to provide a property in proper useable condition as per the contract and wht the consumers were told?

    Especially when now it is known Sunchaser wants to sell part of the resort off (Hotel?) so that they can pay their REIT Holders and profit themselves etc.

    They apparently have applied for re-zoning permits already for this part of their plan as well.

    The many consumers we spoke to will never give up this battle. Many are now retired and don’t have the funds either.

    There are rumours out there that Northwynd (owners of the resort) have done similar deeds in other resorts in Mexico, Belize and the USA. All one has to do is Google and research them and their personal names. A Private Investigator would have a hey-day on this one!

    Thousands and thousands of people may no longer be coming to Fairmont or to Radium BC any longer. This will hurt their tourism and tarnish the area even when it does not deserve it. The money spent in groceries, gasoline, trinkets and so many other purchases by the Canadians and Americans will now go somewhere else. Even the local community will suffer.

    Sunchaser Resort (Northwynd) has a huge problem on their hands. People are refusing to be bullied into spending 10, 20 thousand or more (each) to fix someone elses property so that the actual owner (Sunchaser) can profit from it later (sell the resort to pay their REIT Investors).

    I can’t help but to wonder if Sunchaser could have avoided all this with some due diligence in inspecting the resort before purchase and/or effectively meeting with and communicating with it’s Lessee’s that they are trying to now sue. On the other hand rumour has it that perhaps doing this to the consumer and the local community is what they intended all along before they even bought the resort.

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