Shaughnessy mansion seller did not have to disclose killing, court rules

Family moving to West Vancouver not obliged to reveal murder occurred just outside property

A woman who backed out of a deal to buy a multimillion-dollar Shaughnessy mansion after learning that a family member of the seller had been gunned down outside the front gates won’t be getting her $300,000 deposit back.

A B.C. Court of Appeal decision April 23 reversed an earlier B.C. Supreme Court decision from March of last year, which focused on what the seller – whose family was moving to West Vancouver – was obliged to disclose to a prospective buyer before the deal to buy the mansion was finalized.

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Mei Zhen Wang filed the lawsuit against Feng Yun Shao after Shao backed out of a contract to buy a mansion at 3883 Cartier St. for $6.1 million in 2009.

The case focused on whether the seller’s failure to disclose the unsolved targeted murder of her son-in-law Raymond Huang, two years before, was sufficient reason for Shao to walk away from the real estate deal.

While the reason given for selling the home – that Wang’s daughter Gui Ying Yuan and granddaughter were moving to West Vancouver so the granddaughter could enrol at Collingwood private school – was true, wrote the original trial judge, “it concealed the fact that Ms. Yuan’s daughter changed schools as a result of Mr. Huang’s death and that the death was a factor in the plaintiff’s decision to sell the property.”

Omitting the fact of the violent death when asked why she was selling the house amounted to fraudulent misrepresentation, the trial judge ruled.

But the appeal court didn’t agree.

Having to disclose any number of life events of previous residents would place an unworkable burden on sellers, the panel of appeal court justices ruled.

If the law required sellers to list “all personal reasons and causes for those reasons even when they bear no relationship to the objective value or usefulness of the property, the door would be open to a huge number of claims,” Justice Mary Newbury wrote for the appeal court.

Similarly if the law required sellers to disclose all issues that might touch on “all possible sensitivities and superstitions buyers might have, there would be no end to the resulting litigation,” Newbury wrote.

The panel also rejected an argument by Shao’s lawyer that “when a Chinese person is looking at a house” and asks why it’s being sold, it would be understood “by any Chinese seller” that a violent death on the premise should be disclosed in response.

That amounts to “cultural stereotyping,” wrote the appeal court judge.

According to the reasons for judgment, after the initial sale fell apart, Wang later sold the Shaughnessy mansion – described as a 9,000-square-foot six-bedroom home with an indoor pool, wine cellar and extensive gardens – to another buyer for $5.5 million.

That contract – which was subsequently assigned to a third party before it was completed – contained a written clause confirming the buyer had been made aware of the death that occurred in front of the property.

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