Real estate agent fined $258,000 over ‘deceit’
A real estate agent who sold his own South Surrey property out from under another buyer has been ordered to pay $258,000 plus interest and special costs for breach of contract.
In a judgment released Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Randall Wong describes the behaviour of defendant Hwang Soo Lee as “shocking” and “outrageous.”
“His acts of duplicity and deceit in regards to the Khullar contract was beyond belief,” Wong states.
Kundan and Puja Khullar first filed suit against Lee, his wife, Kyung Hee Hwang, and New Star Realty Ltd. in 2009.
Wong dismissed liability against New Star.
According to the judgment, the claim arose after the Khullars negotiated to buy a house at 3575 Morgan Creek Way in January 2009 for $740,000. Lee requested a deposit of $100,000, with $20,000 to be paid to the realty company and $80,000 to be paid directly to him. The Khullars initialed agreement.
Three days after a Jan. 19 deadline to accept the offer had passed – and despite an earlier verbal agreement to purchase – Lee met with the Khullars’ real estate agent asking to delay a requested house inspection and if the Khullars would walk away from the contract, the judgment states.
Jan. 21, 2009, Lee and Hwang agreed to sell the property to another couple for $779,000. Two days later, Lee delivered an addendum to his contract with the Khullars, attempting to increase their purchase price by $80,000, the judgment states.
Lee testified his property had been listed for sale intermittently between 2007 and 2009 without success, and that the Khullars’ offer was the first written offer he’d received.
He testified he needed another $36,000 to close the deal and transfer clear title to the Khullars.
Despite phone records indicating otherwise, Lee denied speaking with the Khullars’ real estate agent before receiving the accepted contract, and only took issue with the delay and deposit monies after the Khullars filed suit, the judgment states.
Wong found there was a binding contract between Lee and the Khullars, and that Lee breached the contract by failing or refusing to complete; failing or refusing to provide access to the property for inspection; and selling the property to a third party.
“For an extra $39,000, Mr. Lee was prepared to scuttle the prior Khullar contract,” Wong writes.
“Mr. Lee’s duplicitous behaviour was high-handed and outrageous. Since he was also negotiating in his role as a realtor in the sale of his own property, his actions were not only surprising and unprofessional, it was simply dishonest, with extreme disappointing results to the Khullars.”
The $258,000 award includes $81,000 for “opportunity loss and comparative functional difference” between the house the Khullars wanted to buy from Lee and the one they later bought two doors down; and the $177,000 price difference between the two.
The nine-day trial was held in Vancouver. Judgment was handed down Dec. 2, and posted online Monday.