The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by everyone, and in many areas of life, people and organizations have received leniency in some of the obligations people face in their lives, such as student loans, credit card payments. People without income due to COVID-19 have also received benefits from various levels of government. However, as a recent decision Ontario Superior Court of Justice demonstrates, COVID-19 can’t be an excuse for everything.
The mother of three children (two daughters and one son) died on December 27, 2018. Her children were named jointly as estate trustees in her will. The most significant asset owned by the deceased was a house with a market value of about $900,000. The son and his family had been living in the home since 2012.
An order had been made on February 6 2020 requiring the son to have the house listed for sale by April 15 2020. The son had an option to purchase the house by April 14 2020.
The daughters brought an application to the court asking for the home to be sold. The son brought a motion seeking an extension of the deadline due to “circumstances he attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.” He took the position that the pandemic precluded his ability to purchase the home by the deadline imposed by the court.
The son lived with the mother in 2012 and stayed there until one year before her death when she had to move out for health reasons. In an affidavit he explained that he paid expenses for maintaining the home and was somewhat responsible for the $400,000 appreciation in its value over that time.
The sisters alleged that the property taxes on the home had not been paid for three years. The son does not dispute this, though said he was not receiving mail indicating the property taxes had fallen into arrears. He claims to have tried to pay the city for outstanding property taxes, but that they were not accepting payments at the time due to COVID-19.
The son said he tried to get a real estate agent to come see the house, but was unable to do so. He also said COVID-19 prevented him from going to banks.
The daughters took the position that the son and his family have lived in the home for many years without paying rent or expenses. Since the death of their mother, no rent had been paid to the estate. They claim that in addition to not paying taxes on the home, the son has also neglected maintenance and repairs on it.
The daughters argue that a careful review of the son’s evidence shows no proof of a deflated housing market, government offices being closed, banking services not being available, or evidence that he would be prejudiced if the timelines were enforced.
The daughters proposed that the son would not likely qualify for financing to purchase the house. They request the house be put for sale and in the meantime that the son pay occupation rent for living in it.
The court agreed with the daughters’ position that the son provided no evidence to support his position, including records of attempts to contact government of financial institutions. The court said it could not overlook the son’s failure to attempt to contact someone by email. The court noted that if the housing market really was deflated, he likely could have made a lower offer than the house’s market value prior to COVID-19.
Without any evidence to support his request, the court dismissed his motion to extend the deadline. The daughters were granted the power to sell the home. In the meantime, the son was ordered to pay rent of $2,000 per month.
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