Decades after moving out, man wins claim to half of $1.2-million Vancouver home
It's a classic Vancouver real estate story: In the nearly five decades since David Johnston bought a Victoria-Fraserview property with his estranged...more

VANCOUVER — It's a classic Vancouver real estate story: In the nearly five decades since David Johnston bought a Victoria-Fraserview property with his estranged wife, the value of the home has shot up by a factor of 32.

And even though Johnston hasn't lived in the home or made any mortgage payments on it since he separated from Sharon Johnston in 1971, he still deserves half the proceeds from the sale of the home, now valued at $1.2 million, a B.C. judge has ruled.

The Johnstons bought the home at 8286 Elliott St. for a piddly $37,500 in 1968, but within three years David had moved out and Sharon's new partner Ezra Lucas had moved in. She lived there with Lucas until her death in 2009, raising one son named Philip Lucas.

Despite those four decades of separation, the Johnstons never divorced or signed a separation agreement, and David's name remained on the land deed. In 2012, he filed a petition asking for the home to be sold, with the proceeds divided equally between him and Philip Lucas.

Lucas took exception to that request, arguing the Johnstons had reached a verbal agreement wherein David would drop any claim to the property and in return, Sharon would not seek spousal support from him.

But David Johnston denied consenting to those terms, and B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lisa Warren agreed that Lucas hadn't presented compelling evidence of a separation agreement.

Instead, Warren said, it seems probable that both Johnstons were happy to ignore the issue rather than risk confrontation.

"In my view, it is likely that Mr. Johnston did not press his claim for an interest in the property because he knew that Ms. Johnston would likely respond by pursuing a claim for spousal support. Ms. Johnston likely did not press her claim for spousal support because she knew that Mr. Johnston would likely respond by claiming an interest in the property," Warren wrote.

Without a separation agreement, David Johnston's one-half interest in the property is still valid, the judge said.

She ordered the sale of the home, with the proceeds to be divided equally, but added that Lucas is entitled to a credit for the mortgage payments his mother made after the separation.

Read the full judgment here:



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