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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.

4 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)

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