By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOX Hill MP Shonel Ferguson’s investment company has three weeks to vacate a building it allegedly never paid real property taxes on since assuming responsibility for it some 13 years ago, a Supreme Court judge has ordered.
Justice Keith Thompson, in a November 20 written ruling, ordered Turtle Creek Investments (TCI), its agents, servants, assigns or subtenants to move out of the building in Centreville no later than close of business on December 15.
Additionally, Justice Thompson ordered TCI to pay all outstanding sums it owes Donna Davis’ Daybreak Holdings, the plaintiff, pursuant to a hire purchase agreement it entered into for the building in December 31, 2005.
The judge also ordered both parties to engage an accountant to determine “the amount of arrears, outstanding bills, outstanding taxes, outstanding fees, outstanding duties, outstanding fines and outstanding registration charges” TCI owes Daybreak pursuant to the agreement.
Additionally, Justice Thompson ordered the sum of $150,000 to be subtracted from all sums TCI owes Daybreak Holdings pursuant to paragraph six of the hire purchase agreement, which stipulates that amount is to be returned to Daybreak Holdings upon termination of the agreement.
TCI is also ordered to pay all of Daybreak Holdings’ costs associated with “the bringing of and prosecution” of the court matter, to be taxed if not agreed.
The order comes a month after The Tribune exclusively reported how TCI allegedly owed $70,000 in real property taxes having never paid them since it assumed responsibility for the building located in question, which houses the Crabhouse and Seafood Emporium.
Additionally, TCI was alleged to have owed the Water and Sewerage Corporation $22,173.15 as of July this year when it was disconnected, having not paid “any utilities and insurance” on the building for at least two years. The last time TCI paid its water bill was in July of 2014, it was alleged.
Concerning the building’s insurance, TCI allegedly did not pay any insurance premiums for the past three to four years, something that caused the building’s owner to recently pay $15,963.75 to J S Johnson Insurance Agents & Brokers in a bid to bring the insurance policy current.
Also, it was alleged that TCI had not paid its light bill for “some time now,” and was consequently utilising a generator for electricity.
Additionally, TCI allegedly did not pay any of the $10,833 monthly payments it agreed to pay for the building in question since September of 2016, resulting in the owner receiving no revenue from the agreement, despite the company currently subleasing a portion of the building for $12,000 per month.
Daybreak Holdings further claimed that notwithstanding the various breaches, TCI “failed and/or refused” to bring the hire purchase agreement current or to vacate the building.
According to a sworn affidavit by Ms Davis, president of Daybreak Holdings, TCI Ltd entered into the hire purchase agreement with the company in 2005 for the building situated on the corner of Collins Avenue and 6th Terrace.
At the time of the agreement, TCI was already renting a portion of the building.
It was agreed that TCI would pay Daybreak a $150,000 deposit and thereafter the sum of $1,350,000 in monthly instalments of $10,833 per month over a period of 264 months.
In exchange, Ms Ferguson’s company was permitted to assume responsibility and operation of the building in question. TCI was also responsible for all maintenance, taxes, fees, and insurance over the building.
TCI was also given the option to purchase the building for an amount to be agreed. And in the event that happened, TCI would receive full credit for the $150,000.
According to the documents, TCI paid the $10,333 monthly sum for the most part until around December 2009, at which time there were some missed payments. TCI allegedly started making “reduced payments” in 2015, and by the end of September 2016, made no payments whatsoever.
Daybreak Holdings claimed in the meantime, it served “many letters” on TCI, all of which contained “numerous requests and demands” for all outstanding sums pursuant to the hire purchase agreement, but to no avail.
In a sworn affidavit, however, Ms Ferguson claimed that Daybreak Holdings approached her and her company about the building on or about August 2005, with a view to selling it because it was in a “financial bind” and found it difficult to collect rent from its tenants.
Ms Ferguson claimed that as of August 17 of this year, her company has paid Daybreak Holdings $1,548,609, in addition to investing over $700,000 in renovations for what she claimed was initially a building in a “dilapidated state”.
Ms Ferguson claimed that as the $1.5m TCI paid to Daybreak Holdings exceeded the sum owing on the hire purchase agreement, and that as both parties concluded that the principal amount under the agreement was settled, the only outstanding issue was the amount of the outstanding interest.
Ms Ferguson claimed that subsequent to entering into the hire purchase agreement, TCI opened several businesses in the building and made “timely” monthly payments.
However, she said as the economy declined and crime escalated in the area, both parties agreed to reduce the monthly payment to $5,000 until the $1.35m was liquidated.
When the economy didn’t improve, she said both parties agreed to put the building up for sale and distribute the proceeds between them. In particular, Ms Ferguson claimed both parties agreed that upon the building’s sale, TCI would be reimbursed for the equity it put into the building.
Concerning the outstanding taxes, Ms Ferguson claimed both parties agreed that all outstanding real property taxes would be settled at the sale of the building. And concerning the WSC bill, she claims Daybreak Holding’s previous tenant, Papa John’s, left the bill and that Daybreak Holdings was “fully aware” of that fact.
However, Daybreak Holdings refuted that last claim as “simply not true”, charging that TCI’s last payment to WSC was made in July 2014, according to the July 2018 bill. Furthermore, Daybreak Holdings said a copy of the WSC bill for the period October 2015 to July 2018 shows how the bill went from $8,040.13 to $22,173.15.
And concerning TCI’s claims that it had paid the principal under the agreement, thus leaving only the interest to be resolved, Daybreak stressed that the balance of the agreed sum was to be paid over 264 months at an interest rate of eight per cent per month, and that as with “virtually all agreements of this nature, each payment would be part principal and part interest.”
Attorney Christina Galanos represented Daybreak Holdings. Ed Turner represented TCI.