An aging West Point Grey mansion, which was the site of a U2 video shoot in 2015, is at the centre of a B.C. Supreme Court battle.
In a Jan. 29 decision, Justice Jacqueline Hughes refused to dismiss plaintiff Han Wang’s lawsuit against 1611 Drummond Drive owner Donger Lu after the 2022 sale fell through. Last year, B.C. Assessment valued the 1.354 acre property — which contains an eight-bedroom, six-bathroom house built in 1925 — at $16.648 million.
Wang, who had agreed to pay $18.58 million, filed a certificate of pending litigation (CPL) and accused Lu of breach of contract. Lu countersued and unsuccessfully applied for cancellation of the CPL. She also failed to convince Hughes to order Wang to make a $2 million security payment to the court.
The judgment said that Wang is a Canadian citizen who moved to Vancouver from China in 2008 and is currently president of a Vancouver real estate development company. Lu moved to Canada in 2007 and is retired. She bought the property in 2013 along with her then-husband, Ding Yuan Hua, and it was transferred to her name in 2014, two years before they divorced.
Lu testified in the three-day, June 2023 hearing that an architect had been commissioned to plan a new house on the property and that she continued to call it her principal residence. It was listed for sale in November 2019 and then re-listed in 2020 and 2021.
Despite trees falling and damaging the roof and windows, a June 2021 listing described the house as “immaculate and well-kept.” On the recommendation of an insurance company, however, Lu stayed at her son’s nearby house.
Wang and real estate agent Charles Yang toured the house on several occasions in March 2022. Yang testified that he noticed a tarp on the roof, but Lu’s real estate agent told him that the roof was being repaired and that Lu was currently living there. Wang and Yang never met Lu, Hughes wrote.
“For his part, Mr. Wang testified that he observed the tarp on the roof, but it did not concern him because many of the houses in the neighbourhood were old, similarly had tarps and were undergoing repairs,” Hughes wrote.
Almost two weeks after the first tour, Lu’s insurance broker told her no one was willing to insure the property, “other than one who was prepared to insure it as a vacant dwelling on a wreckage value basis due to its condition.”
Wang offered $18.58 million in April 2022 and agreed to pay a $900,000 deposit with a Sept. 29, 2022 closing date. But, in August of that year, he was unable to obtain inhabited dwelling insurance, which his lender required.
“Upon making further inquiries, Mr. Wang eventually learned that the property was insured as a vacant property,” Hughes wrote.
Wang asked Lu to extend the closing date to October, but she refused.
“She testified that she did so because she had committed to providing funds for her son to purchase a property in China and to complete a lease agreement for the purchase of a property for herself in London, England in the amount of £2,830,200, which were both scheduled to complete shortly after the closing date under the contract,” Hughes wrote.
A September inspection found structural problems and problems with the water and electrical systems. Wang learned that Lu had not lived there for some time and that her empty homes tax (EHT) declarations were untrue. She did not provide a speculation and vacancy tax (SVT) declaration.
The property was re-listed for sale in October, but the listing did not mention the house.
“Mr. Wang asserts that he remains ready, willing and able to purchase the property and intends to do so once it has been remediated to the point where it can be insured as an inhabited dwelling and when Ms. Lu has complied with the EHT and SVT terms of the contract.”
Lu wanted the certificate of pending litigation removed on the basis of her financial hardship. She took a $5.5 million loan through Amber Mortgage Corporation in October 2022 to fund the overseas property acquisitions, secured against the Drummond property and a commercial property near Metrotown. But the judge said she did not disclose complete tax records and provided no evidence about how she funds her daily living expenses or the costs of maintaining her property. Additionally, the supporting documentation about her overseas purchases was in Chinese and not translated to English, as required by court rules.
“Given Ms. Lu’s multiple property purchases and opaque financial circumstances, I am unable to conclude that the interest being paid by Ms. Lu and the hardship she alleges she is experiencing by consequence thereof, results solely from the registration of the CPL,” Hughes wrote.
The judge awarded costs to Wang.
In April 2015, a Los Angeles production company quietly rented the house for a two-day shoot with U2 between the band’s rehearsals for the Vancouver-launched iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour. Resident Jason Upton told a reporter that he spotted drummer Larry Mullen Jr. inside and heard unfamiliar songs. Upton also said the crew rolled a red carpet on the wood floor of the classic dining room, where a small stage had been built for a previous film production, and the white ceiling was temporarily painted red.
A planned behind-the-scenes documentary on the album and tour for later that year was postponed.
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