Spouse Accused of Sabotaging Sale of Matrimonial Home
Written on behalf of Long Shariff & Associates
The matrimonial home is one of the most valuable assets that most couples will ever own. In the event of a separation or a divorce, there may be disagreements between parties over what to do with the home. In many cases, one of the parties will purchase the other’s interest in the home, while in other cases, the house might be sold with the parties splitting the proceeds. Sometimes a couple has difficulty agreeing on what to do, especially if one party wants to sell the house and the other wants to keep it. This was the situation in a decision recently issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Former Spouses Disagree Over Selling the Matrimonial Home
The applicant and respondent lived together in a house until their separation on March 23, 2021. At the time of the hearing, there was an outstanding mortgage balance of $297,000. The parties hired a realtor (“KK”) when they ultimately decided to list the house. However, while the applicant was eager to list with KK, the respondent said he would prefer to pursue co-listings for the sale, with him and the applicant each having their own agent. He also said he wanted to bid on it himself.
The respondent said he had been interested in purchasing the property as far back as May 2021 and was ready to purchase it for $375,000, having already secured financing from a bank. The respondent told the applicant he had the home appraised, but he didn’t share the results with her other than to verbally tell her it had been appraised at $440,000. In court, the respondent did not provide the appraisal as evidence. Instead, he said the appraisal amount had been closer to $400,000.
Realtor Claims Respondent Sabotaged the Sale of the Home
Once the home was listed, it attracted offers ranging from $350,000 to $375,000. However, the realtor said the respondent’s behaviour had likely prevented more generous offers, stating he had:
- Limited the time for offers and therefore the number of prospective buyers.
- Refused to deal with the three offers, or make counter offers, in the negotiating process.
- Told a prospective buyer’s agent that the shingles needed replacing and the basement leaked, contrary to what he had told the realtor.
- Told prospective buyers and their agents that he would not sell.
- Locked the master bedroom door so that it could not be viewed, further reducing the number of prospective buyers.
- Scrawled a message to the applicant on the bedroom door.
- Refused further showings, resulting in the realtor having to cease advertising the property.
- Attempted to cancel the listing.
Can a Court Intervene in the Sale of the a Matrimonial Home?
The court quoted another recent decision that addressed the conflict of interest a spouse might have when they want to purchase the matrimonial home even though it’s listed for sale. The decision stated, “finally, if the spouse with a right of first refusal is in possession, the existence of the right of first refusal will provide a disincentive to maintaining the property, so as to increase its value and saleability. I acknowledge that, in some degree, the same disincentive may operate if a spouse in possession, without a right of first refusal, wants to buy the matrimonial home.”
The respondent stated that he doesn’t necessarily trust the realtor since she stands to profit from a higher sale price on the house.
The Court reiterated that both of the parties had agreed to sell the home, but the conflict appeared to have arisen because of competing interests. The respondent was looking to purchase the house for the lowest price, while the applicant had an interest in selling it for as much as possible. The Court said the home should be exposed to the market in order to maximize the price received while still allowing for the respondent to make an offer on it. The Court ordered that the house be listed with the terms proposed by the applicant.
Contact Long Shariff & Associates for Family Disputes Relating to the Matrimonial Home
At Long Shariff & Associates our family law lawyers understand the significance of the matrimonial home and work with our clients to resolve disputes through a collaborative approach whenever possible. If you are going through a separation or divorce and need advice about the family home or other property, please reach us online or call us at 905-591-4545.