Housing Confusion

In January 2019, two complainants contacted this Office to advocate for a sibling, who had been dealing with Housing Nova Scotia (HNS).  The complainants and the sibling felt “wronged” by the actions of HNS related to the sibling’s residency which the family believed the sibling was paying rent-to-own.

In 1990, the sibling struggled financially and was without a residence and subsequently sought help from Rural and Native Housing Nova Scotia (RNHNS) which was then administered by the Department of Community Services and later  by the present-day Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing (for the purposes of this case, hereafter referred to as HNS). At that time, the sibling understood that they entered into an agreement (Indenture) to Lease to Purchase a residence built and mortgaged by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) upon a parcel of land provided to the CMHC. The sibling stated they have a grade 7 education and their understanding, after speaking with a representative of the RNHNS, was that as long as they paid their rent for 25 years, they would own the house.

In July 2017, approximately 27 years after commencing payments, the sibling stopped paying on the house and property believing that they now owned it. During this time, the complainant began to help the sibling change the deed however, the stop payment resulted in HNS taking action with respect to the deed (legally freezing the deed) and then advising the complainants/sibling that in addition to back-rent owed, the sibling had the option to take out a $41,000 mortgage if they wished to own the property. The sibling, believing that they already owned the home, advised that they were 72 years old, has suffered a work injury, and has not been able to work for years. The complainant and sibling did not accept that the offer made by HNS was reasonable and given the totality of the circumstances was unfair.

A documentary review and subsequent meetings with HNS resulted in this Offices’ finding that there was merit to the complaint.  The primary element supporting this reasoning was that in the mid-1990’s the sibling indicated they were wanting to take out a mortgage and at that time, HNS appointed a lawyer to act on behalf of both HNS and the sibling. The lawyer worked on the file for approximately 3 years (complicated by original deed and boundary issues) and then died suddenly. HNS alleged that the sibling was then advised to engage their own lawyer as the original lawyer had died without completing the necessary work. The sibling alleges they were never advised by HNS to engage their own independent lawyer and believed the mortgage was in effect. The HNS file then appears to have laid dormant up until the point the sibling stopped paying rent and HNS making an initial proposal to the sibling in the amount of $41,000.

Subsequent intervention with HNS by this Office resulted in HNS amending the purchase offer. The legal counsel for the complainant and sibling advised HNS that the revised purchase offer was accepted.