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What happened when UPS lost an Ontario family’s $14K down payment on a Newfoundland home

Lawyer says people buying homes should wire money instead of mailing or using courier

Last week, Sherrie Wynne was distraught and crying, thinking about how her efforts to buy a home in Newfoundland and Labrador nearly cost her part of her life savings, her job and the roof over her head — all because of a UPS package lost in the mail.

“I’ve been in tears, this was everything,” the 39-year-old St. Catharines, Ont., woman told CBC News.

“My whole house was in this package that they wouldn’t talk to me about and had lost,” she said, referring to the bank draft she sent by courier to secure the purchase of the new home. 

After the package was unaccounted for, the sellers of the home told Wynne they’d be patient, but couldn’t wait too long. 

UPS eventually found the bank draft — after a nail-biting eight days — but as one consumer protection advocate says, Wynne’s story reveals the vulnerability of relying on a courier system for important documents.

It’s also an example of the emotional journey Canadians can face as they try to secure permanent housing.

Finding the ‘perfect house’ on a budget

Wynne said she sold her previous home in 2017 after a divorce but didn’t net enough money to buy another home in Ontario.

Two years later, Wynne and her current partner Jesse Vaters started saving up and looking for homes in Newfoundland and Labrador with a price point within their means — around $60,000.

They both live and work as property managers at an apartment building in St. Catharines.

Wynne said they recently found the “perfect house” sitting right across from the ocean and they made an offer.  

“We decided to put in an offer with basically all of my life savings … it was a combination of a dream and a fall back because in this day and age, how are you going to retire?”

Wynne and Vaters sent a $14,000 bank draft and legal documents to a lawyer in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We sent it all through UPS. UPS lost it,” Wynne said. 

“When they lost it, they refused to talk to me about any of it.”

‘I couldn’t form sentences from the stress’

Wynne said if she had lost that money and couldn’t get it back, she would have been in a desperate situation.

She lives with her partner, three kids and three pets.

Wynne said she was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012 and learned about a cyst on her spine in 2018, adding that doctors recently told her it appears to be growing.

Wynne is waiting to do an MRI. If she needs surgery and, in the end couldn’t move out east, she said she would have lost her job and, as a result, her apartment. Vaters can’t afford the rent on his own, she added.

She also wouldn’t have been able to qualify for ODSP because of the money she’s saved up to buy the home in Newfoundland. Asset limits are $40,000 for one person and $50,000 for couples.

“I couldn’t form sentences from the stress,” she said.

Wynne contacted CBC News while the bank draft was still lost, worried she was about to lose everything. 

CBC Hamilton contacted UPS on Dec. 9 at 8 a.m. ET. Two hours later, Wynne said she heard back from the company.

She said they found and delivered the package. They blamed weather for the delay, Wynne said.

UPS declined an interview, but a company spokesperson said it opened an investigation into the lost package, then found and delivered it.

“Customer service is important to us, and we take the delay of any package seriously,” read the emailed statement.

“We regret the stress and inconvenience this issue has caused the customer.”

Lawyer recommends wiring money

Wynne and Vater were overjoyed to hear the news.

“We’re ecstatic it’s all there and taken care of, but we’re lucky,” she said.

Wynne said anyone else buying a home in a different province should try other methods like delivering it yourself.

Jeff Orenstein, a lawyer with Consumer Law Group, told CBC News people should also try wiring the money directly to the lawyer, even if it costs a bit more. He also said Wynne would’ve been able to call her bank and cancel the bank draft and try to re-send it.

Wynne said she had held off from calling her bank, Tangerine, while hoping the package would be found.

Tangerine spokesperson Rebecca Webster told CBC Hamilton so long as the bank draft wasn’t cashed, Wynne could’ve cancelled it and signed an indemnity form to ensure someone wouldn’t cash the original draft. 

In terms of whether UPS would be liable for losing the package, Orenstein said it depends on the situation.

He said if someone pays for express shipping, for example, and the service delivers the package late, the company may be liable.

“It seems to me the companies are taking on an obligation of result … they actually should deliver it when they promised they would, other than an act of god like a snowstorm,” he said.

Wynne said she’s looking forward to packing up, moving into the new home and eating fresh lobster.

“It’s a Christmas present.… We’re excited, it’s good, it’ll be fun times,” she said.

“I can see whales and jellyfish.”

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