Digital Originals

published : 2023-11-26

Family Spends $600,000 Renovating Historic Property, Only to Discover They Don't Own It

Former homeowner claims he was never informed about the property being taken from him

A picturesque view of the bayside home in Hampton, Nova Scotia, overlooking the Bay of Fundy taken with a Sony Alpha A7R III.

A house-flipping couple embarked on a thrilling journey when they invested $600,000 in renovating a bayside home, only to be hit with a shocking realization: they couldn't legally sell it. The Canadian Department of Justice accused the local government of illegally auctioning off the property, leaving the couple devastated and questioning their fate.

Lorna Tenniswood, the wife of the couple, expressed her distress, saying, 'I hate it. It's a great house. It's just so tainted. It's a prison of our own making.' The dream they had invested in turned into a nightmare as they found themselves trapped in a legal battle.

To make matters worse, it was revealed that the government had been actively working for a legal solution to get them out of the house and return it to its former owner. Lorna Tenniswood shared, 'There are 42 government personnel from different departments involved in resolving this issue and finding a rightful solution.' The couple felt the weight of uncertainty as they faced the possibility of losing their investment to an unforeseen circumstance.

Ian Tenniswood, Lorna's husband and their partner in house flipping, explained their initial decision to buy the property. After a small claims court ruling, they believed they had the opportunity to acquire the four-bedroom coastal home, perched on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful Bay of Fundy in Hampton, Nova Scotia. Little did they know that their investment would soon become entangled in a legal web.

Lorna Tenniswood, one-half of the house-flipping couple, standing proudly in front of the renovated property in Hampton, Nova Scotia, captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

The Justice Department threw a wrench in the couple's plans when they barred them from selling the home after the renovations were complete. They also filed a lawsuit against the property owners, arguing that the local sheriff's department, responsible for conducting the auction, had failed to notify the previous owner, Mehdi Martin, about the impending sale of his home. The Tenniswoods were victims of a system that had neglected due process.

Describing their renovation journey, Lorna shared their optimism and confidence, explaining, 'We didn't feel it was a risk that wouldn't pay us back. We felt very safe in the knowledge that we could turn this into a gem. And we did. We were sure the money would come back to us.' Unfortunately, their hopes were shattered when the attorney general's hold on the property prevented them from reaping the rewards of their hard work.

Mehdi Martin, the previous owner, found himself caught in the middle of this legal turmoil. Unaware that his house had been put up for auction, he was shocked and devastated when he learned the news. As a New York-based artist, he described the situation as the worst kind of betrayal. He said, 'The shock of having your house taken from you without even being told. Well, that's the worst. This is wrong.' Martin's pain and frustration were evident as he sought justice and expressed his desire to reclaim his property.

The Tenniswoods' connection to Martin began as a business arrangement. They were hired by him to repair the Hampton home but faced a dispute over payment, leading them to take the matter to small claims court in 2020. Matin, not responding to communication from the sheriff's department, inadvertently allowed the property to be put up for sale to settle his outstanding debt to the Tenniswoods. He claimed he never received the emails warning him of the potential auction, leaving him blindsided by the consequences.

Mehdi Martin, the previous owner caught in the middle of a legal battle, posing with his artwork in his New York studio, photographed using a Nikon D850.

The case involving the Tenniswoods and Mehdi Martin highlighted flaws in the Department of Justice's practices. According to Brad Johns, Nova Scotia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the incident prompted modifications within the department's Sheriff Services. Johns stated, 'As this matter remains before the Courts, I am limited in what I can say. The department has modified practices within Sheriff Services to address issues that were identified in this case.'

With a trial set for August 2024, Mehdi Martin stands to regain ownership of the home that had been refurbished by the Tenniswoods. The outcome of their lawsuit will determine the future of the property, as well as the fate of the couple's substantial financial investment. Lorna Tenniswood expressed regret, acknowledging, 'This was a massive mistake. We regret it.' Their once-promising venture turned into a cautionary tale, serving as a reminder of the unforeseen challenges one can face when delving into the world of property renovation and flipping.

This gripping story reminds us of the fragility of ownership and the complexities of legal battles. It serves as a warning to those who embark on risky ventures, urging careful consideration and due diligence before diving into any investment. The Tenniswoods' tumultuous journey leaves us questioning the systems in place to protect property rights and the potential ramifications when such systems fail. It is a story that captivates with its twists and turns, leaving us eager to discover the ultimate outcome.