The absence of a final occupancy permit at a Surrey townhouse complex has left home owners looking to sell their units feeling powerless.
Lisa Helin lives at Terrane, a 191- unit townhouse complex at the corner of Scott Road and 68th Avenue, with her husband Eric. They bought into the complex when it opened in 2006, at which time it had a temporary occupancy permit.
That permit has since expired and Terrane was never issued a final occupancy permit. As a result, residents are unable to sell their units because banks won’t mortgage their properties without the permit.
“I feel like a hostage in my home,” said Helin. “I don’t want to be there anymore.”
Furthermore, they didn’t find out about this missing occupancy permit until one of their neighbours tried to sell their property. Despite that tenant’s unsuccessful sale, the Helins listed their home and received an enticing offer on it.
“We thought it was only going affect sales through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) that were kind of high-risk buyers that did not have enough money to put down,” she said. “Ours was the very first conventional mortgage to be turned down in the complex.
“We had the perfect buyer. The purchasers had 40 per cent down, which is above and beyond to make it secure – and the bank turned it down.”
Because they couldn’t sell their home, the Helins missed the opportunity to purchase the new home they wanted, which is now off the market.
“No home is going to sell unless somebody comes in and pays 100 per cent cash,” said Helin. “That’s the only way a deal is going to happen.”
In addition, the lack of a permit restricts them from taking out equity on their Terrane condo, and the strata council has strict rules against renting out units.
“Our bylaw states that unless there is financial hardship, you cannot rent, and it's still up to the strata to approve, even if you have financial hardship,” she said. “If they approve it, you can only rent for a year anyway.”
According to Helin, only one request to rent has gone through, and that's because the strata didn't respond by the deadline.
Helin said she and her husband are out of options, and she wonders why the complex was never issued a permanent occupancy permit in the last seven years.
Stacey Yarwood, senior manager of Terrane’s development company Lakewood Management, told the Now that the strata’s lawyer had sent a letter to the City of Surrey threatening possible litigation and said that was the cause for the final permit’s delay. But Helin said she hasn’t heard of any letter, and that she doesn’t think Lakewood has met the requirements for the final permit.
“Everything is kind of being held behind closed doors – the owners are in the dark,” she said, adding that most residents are unaware of the missing permit until they try to sell their homes. “I don’t think the parties involved understand the consequences.”
She said the ordeal has been stressful and she said she just wants someone to take responsibility and get the permit.
“No one’s taking accountability, and at the end of the day, it’s us as owners that are suffering,” she said. “We cannot carry on with our lives.”
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