Portland couple sue Scotiabank for fraud and negligence
The dream of owning a house is a precious aspiration for many Jamaicans, but it is a dream for one Portland couple that has turned nightmarish, as the supposed house they thought they had bought is still occupied, leaving them with only a section of farmland to show for their troubles.
Now they are blaming one of Jamaica's largest commercial banks, Scotiabank Jamaica, for their plight.
Christopher and Diana Logan explained that they responded to a series of published adverts about an incomplete two-storey house located in Windsor Forest, Portland, that was up for sale.
Having made initial checks, they subsequently contacted a representative from Scotiabank Jamaica, who initiated steps to draft up a sales agreement for the house, comprising five bedrooms, and situated on 7.95 acres of land and valued at $10.5 million.
"That was the beginning of this nightmare that has left us practically homeless, hopeless, and almost destitute," said Mrs Logan.
The Logans are now seeking special damages against Scotiabank to the tune of $34.25 million, to include legal fees, loss of National Housing Trust (NHT) benefits, and interest paid to NHT (eight months), as well as the loss of equity on the advertised property.
Scotiabank, however, is only willing to pay them the value of the house, an amount that was flatly rejected as "disrespectful" by the Logans.
"We have been through hell. We have sued people who we have no right to have sued. My husband and I have been relying on family members and friends to help us out with money on a day-to-day basis, and that is the best Scotiabank can do?"
Jenene Laing, the Logans' legal representative, said that her clients feel that they have been used by the bank to clear up a previously unpaid mortgage by the current occupants of the house and that they intended to use the purchase, in one fell swoop, to oust the occupants and recoup monies due to them.
She said that the bank clearly had knowledge that the disputed house was not located on the property bought by the Logans and, by extension, that her clients have sued the bank for fraud and negligence in misrepresentation.
"The bank's attorney advised that Scotiabank had appointed a surveyor to conduct a survey of the property on the title in August 2017, and later confirmed that he advised that there was no house on the property," Laing stated.
No two-storey house ... only fowl coops and a pigsty
"It is, therefore, a real surprise that they are now saying that there was a house there, when the NHT (National Housing Trust) would not have loaned that vast amount of money for a piece farmland. The only security the NHT has on the land is a bunch of fowl coops and a pigsty. I suppose those are the five bedrooms Scotia sold my clients," said Jenene Laing, lawyer for Christopher and Diana Logan.
She told The Gleaner that two independent surveyors' reports also confirmed the absence of a house on the land that was sold to the Logans.
"The house in question is on a neighbouring piece of land that is unregistered. The bank's own land surveyor confirmed that, contradicting what Scotiabank had said previously," Laing continued.
Claims filed in the case, a copy of which was obtained by The Gleaner, identify the defendant as Scotiabank Jamaica Limited.
Scotiabank argued that the particulars in the advertisement therein were published by real estate agents who provided their contact details in said advertisements.
The bank went on to argue that the defendants do not know and cannot admit or deny the claimant's state of mind, as the alleged in paragraph five of the Particulars of Claim, but admits that the claimants entered in discussions with the defendant about the purchase of property registered at Volume 1458 Folio 819 of the Registrar Book of Titles.
In addition, Scotiabank, being the defendant, pointed out that the property was indeed sold by it under powers of sale as a mortgagee. The defendant further avers, in particular, that it did not contract to sell a five-bedroom house but, instead, contracted to sell all of that parcel of land situated at Windsor Forest in the parish of Portland, containing by survey, seven acres, three roods, 32 perches and four-tenths of a perch of the shape and dimensions and butting as appears by the plan thereto annexed and being comprised in Certificate of Title registered at Volume 1458 Folio 819 of the Register Book of Titles.