A Moncton real estate agent who was stripped of her licence over allegations she took advantage of a vulnerable senior says she was only trying to get him out of “deplorable” living conditions.
Tanya Hannah and her partner, Maurice Poirier, were recently found unsuitable for licensing under the Real Estate Agents Act by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission, which regulates agents in the province.
The lawyer who prepared the legal documents when the senior sold his house to Hannah is also facing sanctions but from her own professional regulator.
The commission said Hannah and Poirier, who at the time owned Century 21 Absolute Realty Inc. in Moncton, took “outrageous and egregious advantage” of the senior and committed financial abuse against him. They’re challenging the allegations made against them.
Hannah is now being sued by the public trustee’s office, which is trying to recoup the money owed to the senior, Emile Goguen.
The public trustee’s office provides personal and financial guardianship services to New Brunswick seniors in need of support because of mental or physical impairments.
‘Impossible to sell’
Goguen was referred to Hannah and Poirier when he decided he wanted to sell his property at 12 St. George St.
In her statement of defence, Hannah argues the property was in deplorable condition, and the tenants were using drugs and not paying rent.
The building required repairs before it could be listed, and Goguen couldn’t afford them, the statement says.
Attempts were made to remove the tenants, including contacting the RCMP, but it was determined the only way to evict them permanently was to sell the property immediately to a third party.
“However, given the condition of the property and stigma associated same, it would be almost impossible to sell it,” the statement says.
“The situation left [Goguen] in deplorable conditions such that he continued to be intimidated and taken advantage of by the various tenants occupying his property without his consent.”
Bought at client’s request, agent says
Wanting a safe place to live, Goguen asked Hannah to buy his property. Despite their “unease” with the situation, Hannah and Poirier eventually agreed to the request, “as they believed that it would be in his best interest to be removed from such environment.”
Hannah’s lawyer, Enrico Scichlione, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Chantal Landry, the public trustee for New Brunswick, said she couldn’t comment on current litigation.
She would not say whether Goguen has family or provide details on where he is now, but she described him as being “well cared for.”
Suit says realtor owes over $83K
None of the allegations in the statements of claim or defence have been tested in court.
According to the statement of claim, Hannah entered into a deal in 2013 to purchase Goguen’s home for $238,000, about three-quarters the listed price of $324,900.
The property was assessed at $184,100 in 2014, according to Service New Brunswick’s database. Its value has stayed about the same since then.
The statement says Goguen agreed to lend Hannah $100,000 in exchange for a promissory note to purchase the home and to take over a collateral mortgage amounting to $100,000.
The deal also required Goguen to give Hannah a $138,000 renovation credit. The remaining sum of $100,000 was to be paid to Goguen through monthly instalments of $1,000 a month, without interest, which would be applied to his rent.
The claim says Hannah never registered the mortgage.
The public trustee’s office is asking for $83,320 in relief, the amount still owing to Goguen.
Lawyer faces hearing
Jennifer Hébert, the lawyer who prepared legal documents for Hannah and Poirier, could be facing a disciplinary hearing before her own professional regulator.
Hébert is the subject of a complaint filed March 2 with the Law Society of New Brunswick about the Goguen property transaction.
The complaint says Hébert showed a lack of competence by allowing the senior to enter into an agreement with Hannah to sell his house to her.
Hannah, meanwhile, laid a third-party claim against Hébert after receiving the notice she was being sued by the public trustee’s office. A third-party claim is filed when a defendant wants to bring another party into a lawsuit.
Allegedly acted for all parties
In the claim, Hannah says Hébert acted for both Goguen and Hannah in the purchase and sale of the property.
The claim says Hébert was in a conflict of interest and failed to provide “diligent, competent and conscientious quality of service” to her client by preparing the power of attorney and will documents for Goguen, which named Poirier and Hannah as executors and beneficiaries.
Hannah is denying any liability in the case and attributed any losses Goguen faced to Hébert for not taking steps to protect Goguen’s interest and provide him with competent advice.
The claim also says Hébert failed to remove herself from the matter “when she knew or ought to have known” she had a conflict.
Lawyer denies allegations
In an email, Hébert said she denies the allegations in the third-party claim, pointing out they were made by Hannah, not the public trustee’s office.
She also said she plans to defend herself against the complaint to the law society.
In a statement through her lawyer, Hébert said she was not complicit in the actions of Poirier and Hannah, and is “disgusted by their alleged conduct.”
She went on to say her legal work with the pair was “limited,” and she took instructions from Goguen directly.
Deadline for response
“He gave no indication of disability,” Hébert said. “I have not seen him since.”
Under the Law Society Act, Hébert had 20 days to respond to the complaint, or it would be assumed she was admitting to the allegations.
Shirley MacLean, the registrar for the law society, said she couldn’t comment on whether they had received a response.