Historic lighthouse home owners now living with family in R.V. after government-caused legal

A house-flipping couple spent $600,000 renovating a bayside home only to be told by the Canadian Department of Justice that they couldn’t sell it, accusing the local government of illegally auctioning off the property, according to a local report.

“I hate it. It’s a great house. It’s just so tainted,” Lorna Tenniswood, told CTV. “It’s a prison of our own making.”

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“There are 42 government personnel, over nine different government departments, that have been actively working to work out a legal way to get us out of this house and give the keys to the former owner,” she said. 

Lorna and her husband Ian Tenniswood, who renovate houses for a living, had done work on the four-bedroom coastal home with a lighthouse overlooking the Bay of Fundy in Hampton, Nova Scotia. The couple said they decided to buy the property for $50,000 in 2021 after a small claims court ruled that the house would be sold at auction to settle a payment dispute between the Tenniswoods and the owner.

But when the couple went to sell the home after restoring it, the Justice Department barred them, filed suit against the property owners and argued that the local sheriff’s department, which conducted the auction, never notified the previous owner, Mehdi Martin, his home was going up for sale, according to CTV. By then, the Tenniswoods had already sunk $600,000 into renovations. 

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“We didn’t feel it was a risk that wasn’t going to pay us back. We felt very safe in the knowledge that we could turn this into a gem,” Lorna said. “And it is. And we knew that money would come back to us.”

The couple had sold their previous home to fund their plan to flip the Hampton house. Just weeks after placing the recently remodeled home on the market in July 2022, Nova Scotia’s attorney general placed a hold on the property, arguing that the house didn’t belong to the Tenniswoods and should be returned to its previous owner, according to CTV.

The house in Hampton had its own lighthouse, which Lorna called a “one-of-a-kind nightlight.” (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

“The shock of having your house taken from you without even being told,” Matin, a New York-based artist, told CTV. “Well, that’s the worst. That’s the worst. This is wrong.”

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“I want my house back and my land back, and I want to be paid for my pain,” he continued. “Millions of dollars, that’s how much my pain is worth.” 

Matin had originally hired the Tenniswoods to help repair the Hampton home, but refused to pay them in full over a disagreement about the work performed, so they took him to small claims court in 2020, according to the couple. After Matin failed to respond to correspondence from the sherrif’s department claiming his house could be auctioned off in order to pay the Tenniswoods, the property went up for sale, the family said.

“I never got those emails,” Matin said. “You’re going to take my house from an email?”

“Call me,” he added.

In fact, the case prompted changes within the Department of Justice, according to Nova Scotia Attorney General and Minister of Justice Brad Johns.

“As this matter remains before the Courts, I am limited in what I can say,” he told Fox News in a statement. “The department has modified practices within Sheriff Services to address issues that were identified in this case.”

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Matin stands to reclaim the recently refurbished house depending on the outcome of the Tenniswoods’ lawsuit, according to CTV. The trial is set for August 2024. 

“This was a massive mistake,” Lorna said. “We regret it.”

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