An elderly West Vancouver widow has been granted a temporary court order allowing her to remain in her home while she fights a mortgage company’s efforts to oust her.
Donna Mae Galpin was granted the interim order Oct. 22 by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Murray after her lawyer told the judge his client has been victim of “predatory lending,” which saw the senior take out mortgages on her family home in order to funnel money into a now-defunct development plan put forward by a man who befriended her.
Galpin’s lawyer is fighting in court to have the mortgage placed on her home declared invalid.
Astina Mortgages Group Ltd. opposes that, arguing in court documents that Galpin knew what she was doing and that the majority of funds were used to pay off existing mortgages on her property.
According to court documents, Galpin, an 89-year-old pensioner and retired teacher, first took out a reverse mortgage on her home at 1124 Haywood Ave. to help her family.
Around the same time, she was befriended by Timothy Langenberg – a man who began helping her around the house, according to the judge’s decision. “He called her ‘mom,’” the judge wrote.
Soon after, however, Langenberg asked Galpin to invest in a real estate development project he was starting in Gibsons. “He promised Ms. Galpin that if she invested money from her reverse mortgage she would never have to worry about money again,” wrote the judge.
Langenberg set up a company, Salish Sea Environmental Enterprises Ltd., and made Galpin a 50/50 partner in the venture.
In following years, Langenberg convinced Galpin to take “more and more money against her home for the company advising her that if she did not provide more capital to Salish Sea she would lose all of the money she had already invested,” wrote the judge. “He continually reassured her that there was no risk and that she would receive a significant return. She trusted him.”
By the fall of 2016, there were mortgages worth more than $2.6 million registered against her property, both in default. That’s when Langenberg arranged for a 15-month $3.3-million mortgage through Astina.
The mortgage went ahead, with $2.6 million going to pay out existing mortgages on Galpin’s home, almost $179,000 going to Salish Sea and $4,000 going towards municipal taxes owed on the Gibsons development property.
When Galpin received letters from the mortgage company in March 2018 warning her they intended to foreclose on her property, Langenberg told her not to worry.
Galpin still believed that in the spring of 2019, when a real estate agent knocked on her door, according to court documents.
At that point the property had already been listed for sale by Astina.
Three months later the mortgage company sold the house to themselves for $2.7 million, according to court documents.
“Ms. Galpin claims that she had no idea that her home was in jeopardy until Sept. 2, 2019 when Langenberg told her that Astina had foreclosed on her property then purchased it,” according to the judge’s decision.
At a recent hearing, Galpin’s lawyer Brian Coen argued that Astina “engaged in predator lending by granting a large mortgage to a vulnerable then 86-year-old woman who was living on a pension of $3,000 a month and had no prospect of ever being able to make the payments,” according to the judge's summary.
Astina, however, has argued in court documents there was “nothing unconscionable about the mortgage,” arguing their mortgage bought Galpin time to resolve her financial problems.
In making the decision to allow Galpin to remain in her home while the court case is resolved, the judge noted the senior stands to lose a house that has been in her family for generations.
“On the evidence available to me, the mortgage was granted in circumstances which could and possibly should have raised concern that an 89-year-old woman was being taken advantage of by Salish Sea and was at risk of losing her home. Yet there was no investigation as to her ability to make the payments and no direct contact with her by the mortgage broker,” wrote the judge.
“There is no evidence that Astina looked into the Salish Sea development either. If they had they would have seen that it had little to no prospect of getting off the ground.”
The judge added “the fact that Astina bought Ms. Galpin’s home themselves after only three months on the market raises concern.”
In addition to granting the temporary injunction, the judge ordered Astina to produce all correspondence and documents connected to the mortgage including risk assessment, the debt/ratio policies of Astina and a contact name of the lawyer the company says provided Galpin with independent advice.
The judge also ordered that a notice of pending litigation be placed against the property.
The civil case remains before the courts and none of the allegations have been proven.
According to corporate records, Xiuqiong Ran of 2311 Denlewey Place in West Vancouver is the sole director of Astina Mortgages Group Ltd., which was incorporated in July of 2016.
Timothy David Langenberg is listed as the sole director of Salish Sea with an address of 476 Marine Drive in Gibsons.