A Winnipeg family living in — and making mortgage payments on — a house they don't own are headed to trial after trying to get the title to the home back for more than 13 years.
In 2004, Gerhard and Lydia Storm were struggling to keep up with some mortgage payments — they had fallen $4,000 in arrears — when they say they received a call from Richard Boon offering help.
The Storms' lawyer, Christina Cook, explained in Winnipeg's Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday that the couple signed a contract with Boon. In it, the couple agreed to make mortgage payments to Boon, plus a monthly fee of $100. In exchange, Boon would pay the $4,000 in arrears and assume the mortgage.
The couple and Boon disagree on the understanding of the contract, court heard, but in the end a numbered company controlled by Boon had the title for the house.
Boon leaned forward with his elbows on his knees while lawyers spoke in court on Tuesday, but declined to speak with CBC News.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Boon's lawyer, Gavin Wood, told Queen's Bench Judge Vic Toews that his client paid the $4,000 debt to the bank and another $3,000 — which were the mortgage payments from the Storms — but stopped when the couple fell behind on their payments to him.
That's when the Storms found an eviction notice in the mail saying mortgage payments weren't being made.
They started making payments directly to their bank in order to stay in the home, Cook said.
The couple filed a statement of claim in an effort to get their home back in 2004. They have continued to live in the house and pay the mortgage since, but the title is still held by Boon's numbered company.
"They've been paying the mortgage diligently for 13 years," Cook told the court.
Cook argued that Boon never completed his end of the contract — the mortgage was not assumed and therefore it should be void — and Wood countered that the arrears had been paid.
In court on Tuesday, the Storms' lawyer asked for a summary judgment — in which the judge rules without a full trial — and Boon's lawyer put forward a motion asking for an order to dismiss the trial because of the long delay.
But Toews ruled the trial would go ahead, although every effort to expedite it should be taken.
"There's something wrong with this file," Toews said, adding he needed to hear from all the witnesses before he could make any judgment.
He also said there was no agreement of fact explaining what happened and "there was something odd" with the whole situation.
Boon has a long history in the courts when it comes to people fighting to get the title for their homes.
In 2006, Manitoba's deputy registrar general told CBC News many people had come to his office complaining they hadn't intended to sell their homes. At the time, the office stopped processing Boon's land transfers.
The pre-trial will begin at the end of the month.