British Columbia

Hong Kong woman sues ex over property put in his name to avoid foreign buyers' tax

She bought the Richmond house but he's on title, refuses to move after relationship ends

Karin Larsen - CBC News

September 22, 2017

A Hong Kong woman is suing her ex-boyfriend over a Richmond property. Even though she claims to have paid all of the purchase costs, his name was put on the title in order to avoid paying the foreign buyers tax, she says. (Shutterstock / Bacho)

A Hong Kong businesswoman is suing her ex-boyfriend over ownership of a property in Richmond, B.C., which she purchased but claims was put in his name in an apparent move to avoid paying the 15 per cent foreign buyers' tax.

In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Jennie Wu is asking the court to name her as sole owner of the property as well as granting her exclusive possession.

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Ex-boyfriend Johnny Chu is still living in the house, according to the suit.

Wu's claim says she paid the entire purchase price of the property without any contribution from Chu.

According to B.C. Assesement, the Langton Road property in question sold for $2,349,900 in January, 2017.

By putting Chu's name on the title instead of her own, Wu avoided paying a foreign buyers' tax of approximately $352,485.

In the summer of 2016, the B.C. government brought in the 15 per cent property transfer tax for foreign nationals buying Lower Mainland real estate in an attempt to cool an over heated market.

'Don't do anything like this'

Senior real estate lawyer Khushhal Bains says the case should serve as a cautionary tale for those trying to dodge the foreign buyers' tax. 

"We've been telling our clients don't do anything like this," Bains said. 

"The foreign national tax anti-avoidance provision is a scary thing. There's hefty fines and possible jail time for anti-avoidance related issues to the property transfer tax."

Bains, who works for the law firm Bell Alliance, also wonders how eager the courts will be to help Wu.

"It's possible the court might say you didn't come here with clean hands," Bains said. "The only reason he's on title is that you were trying or attempting to commit fraud to avoid paying 15 per cent. So that could be a problem."

Met on a plane

According to Wu's claim, she and Chu began their relationship in November of 2016 after meeting in the business class section on a flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong. Wu was a passenger and Chu was working as a flight attendant. 

The claim does not state Chu's citizenship status but does allude to conversations the two had about the foreign buyers' tax and how Chu could assist Wu in the purchase of a Canadian home.

In August of 2017, Chu broke up with Wu via an electronic chat message.

In the court document, Wu claims that although the two "would have overnight stays at each other's residences in Hong Kong and in Vancouver," they "did not live or reside together in a marriage like relationship."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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