In October, we brought you the story of Ruth Armelin, a Portuguese woman who was one side of a pair of duelling lawsuits with the Roy Building, Toronto construction magnate Louis Reznick’s Barrington Street condo project.
Armelin had agreed to pay over $2 million for a luxury suite in the Roy, but as she told it, the project was plagued with delay and shoddy construction, and was generally less than advertised.
Now comes a second lawsuit against the Roy Building, this one filed by Michael Ritcey, an IT specialist, and his spouse, Andrea Ritcey, a music teacher. In their statement of claim, the Ritceys say that on April 5, 2017, they agreed to buy two units in the building, each of which came with a parking space and promised storage. Over the course of the next four months they paid a deposit for the two units totalling $167,400. The units were to be ready for occupancy “on or before September 1st, 2017.”
That occupation date, however, was repeatedly moved back. “As September 1st, 2017 moved closer and as The Roy appeared wholly unfit for habitation,” reads the claim, “[the Ritceys] began to confer with [representatives of The Roy] as to when the occupation of the units might actually be possible. In response to those inquiries, [The Roy] commenced an almost endless series of outright deceptions…”
First, according to the claim, The Roy said the building would be ready by November 2017. Then occupancy was set on “early 2018,” and then May 2018.
The Ritceys said that it was imperative that at least one of the units be ready by May 2018, as their daughter was finishing the 2017/18 school year and needed a place to live. The Roy assured the Ritceys that a unit would be ready for her.
Is it strange that a student would live in the luxurious Roy? It’s not like she had to couch surf or that her parents had to live in a van down by the river, right? Stay tuned, reader. Stay tuned.
May 2018 came and went, and still neither of the units was ready, but this time The Roy “guaranteed” (italics, bold, and underline in the original) that a unit would be ready by July 2018. Well, said the Ritceys, they absolutely needed it so their daughter would have a place to live for the 2018/19 school year.
Continues the claim:
When The Roy and the units were not completed, finished and ready for occupancy in July 2018, [the Ritceys] became concerned that [The Roy] lacked focus, lacked candour, had no idea when, or even if, The Roy and the units would be completed, finished and read for occupancy, and that the Defendant, and its various agents and representatives, were prepared to say anything, regardless of its accuracy and truthfulness, its falsity and its deceitfulness, simply assuage [the Ritceys’] legitimate and expressed concerns that they wanted to ensure their daughter had somewhere to live at the start of the school year…
When the July 2018 date became clearly unachievable, the Defendant then represented that The Roy and the units would be ready for occupancy in August 2018, and then later September 2018.
Guess what happened? Yep, the units weren’t ready by September 2018, but The Roy “guaranteed” that they’d be ready by “early January” 2019. Then February. Then March. And then May 2019.
All these delays meant that the Ritcey’s daughter couldn’t live in The Roy, and so they “were required to arrange for alternative accommodations for their daughter (including being forced to sleep on friends’ couches instead of in the luxury condo represented by the Defendant).”
Meanwhile, the parents were suffering from the delays as well, says the claim:
Ultimately, occupancy of one of the units could not occur until June 2019 and of the other unit until later. [The Ritceys] by that time having sold their house, with their belongings in storage in multiple locations, and being required to live in multiple temporary locations, including their van, in which they lived out of for a week, and having nowhere else for themselves and their family to live, reluctantly agreed to take possession of the units despite their being only semi-completed at the time.
The lap of luxury
As with Ruth Armelin before them, the Ritceys were underwhelmed by The Roy’s claim that the building would be the epitome of luxury living.
According to the Ritcey’s claims, The Roy promised that it would offer its residents a “luxury lifestyle experience” and used the following terms in their sales pitch:
• “Incredibly unique”
• “Chef’s dream” [kitchen]
• “Tremendous detail”
• “World-class” [emphasis mine, because]
• “First of its kind [in Halifax]”
• Like a “five-star hotel in a world capital”
• “World class modern urban living”
• With “luxuries comparable to other fine living residences around the world”
• “Limited edition living” [what?]
“Each of the Luxury Representations were important to [the Ritceys],” reads their claim, “in that each referred to the type of residential accommodations they were seeking. But for the Luxury Representations, [the Ritceys] would not have considered The Roy as a place in which they wished to reside or in which they would have been prepared to invest their limited financial resources…”
Alas, now moved in, the Ritceys say they found all sorts of “deficiencies” that contradicted the luxury sell.
First, they claim, the heat pumps frequently malfunctioned, leaving the units “without heating and coolest on some of the hottest and coldest days/nights,” and leading to condensation on the windows, which in turn led to the pooling of water in the unit.
The Ritceys say the doors weren’t properly framed and couldn’t close properly, the windows were two-paned instead of three-paned, the shower flooring sloped away from the drain, they had crappy toilets, the in-floor heating didn’t work, the kitchen appliances sucked (my word, not their long paragraph explaining it), the sinks and tubs clog and back up, and:
[The Roy] negligently and incompetently sourced and/or installed the unit’s “chef’s dream” kitchen cooktops that are inferior and/or defective such that they require up to 10-15 minutes to boil a kettle of water and up to 30 minutes to fry a single egg.
The Ritceys say they complained about all the deficiencies, but they took possession of the units anyway because The Roy threatened that if they didn’t, they’d be evicted and all their stuff would be removed, and they’d lose their deposits.
But it wasn’t just their units that are deficient, say the Ritceys. The building’s common areas are also a mess: despite being brand new, the pool, sauna, exercise room, and library are frequently closed for repairs; the men’s changing room is built incorrectly; “automated systems in the amenity spaces, such as television, music and blinds do not work; the “state of the art technology” — presumably wifi — doesn’t work; the fire alarm went off as often as three times a week for no reason at all; the elevators break down; and besides, “The Roy’s common areas are often left dirty and untidy.”
Plus, they didn’t get the extra storage space they were promised, or the opportunity for guest parking — Andrea Ritcey had hoped to use one of the units as a music classroom, and the parking was needed for her students, but the guest spaces were replaced with electric car charging spaces.
The Ritceys are asking the court to order that the sales agreements are not in effect, that all the money they paid to The Roy be returned, and for unspecified damages.
None of the Ritceys’ claims have been tested in court, and it appears they may never be. That’s because their lawyer, Gavin Giles, has written to the court to explain that he and The Roy’s lawyer, Harry Thurlow, have conferred, and Thurlow “has been extremely gracious, as has his client [The Roy].”
As a result, Giles is notifying the court they may soon be seeking to “expurgate the impugned pleadings,” and asking the court to for a “sealing of the allegations from the public record.” Meaning, once such an order is granted, no one will know about the Ritceys’ claims.
As of today, however, no such court order has been granted, and the Ritceys’ claims are still a matter of public record.