British Columbia

Judge questions debtor's sale of house to son for $1

When Hai Huang and his wife transferred ownership of their half-million-dollar home to his son for $1, the man to whom Huang owed $436,000 had questions. This week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found the transfer of the home was a suspicious sale.

Hai Haung transferred ownership of his Nanaimo home to son in middle of trial that saw him owe $436K

6626 Dover Road Nanaimo
The owners of this Nanaimo home transferred the property to their son for $1 in the midst of legal proceedings that saw one of them facing a bill for nearly half a million dollars. A judge found the transaction suspicious. (B.C. Assessment)

After learning Hai Huang and his wife had signed away ownership of their half-million-dollar home to their son for one dollar, the man to whom Huang owed $436,000 had questions.

A jury awarded Jian He the money in 2018 after finding Huang had assaulted him, perforating He's eardrum and causing post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been unable to collect his money ever since.

On Wednesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found the transfer of the home, which is now worth $1 million, was a fraudulent conveyance — a legal term for a suspicious sale.

Justice Robin Baird rejected Huang's claim the transaction was legitimate because it was "Chinese custom" for parents to transfer all their property to their children in advance of a marriage — leaving it to their kids to take care of them until they died.

"I am not persuaded by the uncorroborated claim that it is Chinese custom for parents to transfer all of their assets to their children, especially when the parents are comparatively young and profess, for reasons not disclosed, to earn no income to support themselves," Baird said.

"The timing of it, in the very midst of civil litigation in which it had been clearly established ... that Mr. Huang stood exposed to significant financial liability ... is extremely suspicious."

'There was no marriage'

In order to determine whether the transfer of the house was suspicious, Baird looked back at the circumstances leading up to the transfer of the home in 2016.

The judge said Huang was "on clear notice by mid-July 2016, three months before the transfer, that the allegations made ... were serious and that, if things did not go his way, he would be obliged to pay ... a significant sum of money in damages."

Nevertheless, Huang and his wife claimed the transfer of the home was legitimate given their son's impending marriage.

The scales of justice statue at B.C. Supreme Court with greenery and the buildings skylight roof in the background.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge says the transfer of a home for $1 is "extremely suspicious" because it happened at a time when the owner knew he might be on the hook for substantial damages. (David Horemans/CBC)

"[They said] Chinese custom required his parents to transfer all of their property to him in advance of the wedding to assure his prospective spouse and her family she would be adequately looked after," Baird wrote,

"It is also Chinese custom that children should continue living with their parents, even after they are married, to take over responsibility for the family finances and payment of all household bills."

The judge said that while Huang's son's engagement to a woman from China may have been sincere, "six months or so after the transfer, the couple parted and have not reconciled."

"There was no marriage," Baird wrote.

'$1 and natural love and affection'

According to Baird's decision, the battle between the two men dates back to August 2013 when Huang struck He in what Huang would later claim was self-defence.

He sued, and the matter wound its way through the court to a trial that ended in February 2018.

Huang denied causing any psychological damage to He — but a jury found otherwise, awarding He $436,768.76 plus costs.

"The day after this verdict was returned, [He's] lawyer ... performed a land title search on the property," Baird wrote.

"He discovered that the transfer had been completed in the very midst of the litigation and that the consideration for it registered on title was '$1 and natural love and affection.'"

Huang, who is unemployed and in his mid-50s, claims he and his wife are completely financially dependent on their 39-year-old son.

"I have been given no explanation for this," the judge wrote.

"[Huang] says that he has no income, savings or investments, and he cannot deny that the transfer had the effect of giving away his only valuable asset to his son."

The judge said he had no trouble concluding the intention of the transfer was to deprive He "of a lawful debt-collection remedy in the event, by no means implausible, that his assault lawsuit succeeded."

Despite the ruling, Baird said the law says the transfer of the house can still stand.

But he said He can register the judgment against title to the property — meaning he should be able to collect on his debt as though Huang were still the owner.


Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.