Owners who sold property with 250-year-old oak tree to city of Toronto not entitled to more money, court rules

Owners who sold property with 250-year-old oak tree to city of Toronto not entitled to more money, court rules
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The owners of a North York house that’s home to a historic 250-year-old red oak tree will have to sell the property to the city at the originally agreed upon price, even though its value has soared since the deal was signed.

During a court hearing Thursday, Superior Court Justice Susan Vella said evidence demonstrates that the property owners, Ali and Fanta Mamadou Simaga, wanted to end the sale with the city so they could relist for a higher price because of the state of the real estate market and how much time had passed since the deal was originally made.

“This is not a valid reason for terminating a real estate deal,” Vella said, noting the real estate market is known to fluctuate. “Neither the seller nor the buyer can get out of a binding deal just because they believe in retrospect that they made a bad deal.”

Over the course of their legal battle, the Simagas have had three lawyers represent them. In court Thursday, Shahzad Fuzail Siddiqui stood in, arguing a $2 deposit due at the time the agreement was accepted was paid to the Simagas one year and three months late — noting without it, the deal was just a piece of paper.

The city’s counsel fought back, saying issues over the deposit were not raised by the Simagas until four months after the payment was made in March.

“Two dollars is just part of the purchase price. It’s such a nominal amount of money,” said Michele Wright, representing the city. “They can’t turn around later and point to that as a reason for termination of the agreement.”

The Simagas originally agreed to sell the property, located near the Humber River, to the city in 2019 for $780,000 so the tree could be preserved, the house torn down and a parkette created. The deal allowed the city one year to fundraise to come up with half of the funds needed to buy the house, but initially fell short.

Council agreed to cover the shortfall.

The deal was to close in April of this year, but the Simagas began asking for additional funds to help cover legal costs, mortgage rates and the stresses they faced going through the sale process.

The city ended up taking the Simagas to court in order to force the sale at the agreed-upon price.

The title to the property will be transferred to the city on Dec. 1 for the original price, minus $7,500 for court costs — unless the Simagas and the city decide to close the deal earlier.
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