Nanaimo courthouse (News Bulletin file)

Banned Nanaimo investment advisor loses lawsuit for ex-girlfriend’s house

B.C. Supreme Court judge rules instead that Kenneth Edward Smith must pay back rent

A Nanaimo man who tried to sue his ex-girlfriend for a share of her property has instead been ordered to pay her more than $20,000.

Former financial advisor Kenneth Edward Smith, banned for life from that profession, sued Tracy Dell Cartwright after their breakup, claiming he was entitled to a division of property, but a judge decided that in fact Smith owes Cartwright $23,250 in unpaid rent.

In his Nov. 26 ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Robin Baird threw out Smith’s claim that he was in a “marriage-like” relationship with Cartwright and entitled to her house after their breakup. Cartwright denies it was “marriage like,” and filed a counterclaim for rent owed.

The two met in 2007 after Cartwright’s friends recommended Smith for investment advice. The two became serious in August 2009, in “marriage-like status” in spring 2011 and in an on-and-off relationship until April 2015. In spring 2011, the two began renovations at Cartwright’s Nanaimo home. Smith, who was said to have carpentry experience, did numerous work, including a garage addition and renovations to different rooms. Cartwright paid for all materials while Smith didn’t expect to be paid, as it is part of their “long-term future together,” Baird’s ruling said.

Smith told the court he was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to end the relationship to spare Cartwright distress in late August 2012. Cartwright said she didn’t hear anything about this and claimed it was irreconcilable differences.

RELATED: Former Nanaimo financial adviser fined $125K, banned for life

In early 2013, Cartwright sought Smith’s advice about starting a small business and the relationship started up again that spring, according to Baird’s ruling.

Smith moved from his rented apartment in Lantzville into Cartwright’s home.

Cartwright testified about a verbal agreement for $1,000 monthly rent and said Smith paid nothing save for $500 when he first moved in. He didn’t assist with the mortgage, taxes or insurance.

Smith admitted to rent expectations, but said there wasn’t a set amount and some months he paid $1,000 and others $500. Baird said Smith was unable to present payment records to him.

Baird said the couple permanently broke up in April 2015. Cartwright moved to Vancouver in February 2016 and Smith was to rent the basement for $700 a month. He admitted to only paying $850 between Feb. 1, 2016 and Sept. 19, 2016, leading her to remove his possessions. She found the suite in bad condition with rotten food and “decomposing clothing in the washing machine.”

Cartwright said they were only casually dating between 2009-12. She also believes Smith “misappropriated” money, with approximately $100,000 dwindling to $16,000. Baird said Smith was unable to explain how the money disappeared.

“The available evidence does not establish precisely where the money went,” wrote Baird in his judgment. “At the very least, however, I found it decidedly odd that Mr. Smith, who was Ms. Cartwright’s investment advisor and now claims to be her spouse, was totally unable to explain how this large sum of Ms. Cartwright’s money was frittered away on his watch.”

The two partnered with two others for a chrome finishing business, Shine-On Chrome and Graphic Finishes Inc, with Smith the impetus behind the business, according to Baird. It failed, with everyone losing “tens of thousands of dollars.” The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada subsequently fined Smith $125,000 and issued a lifetime ban from offering financial services for violating rules. Smith declared bankruptcy.

Cartwright also suspected Smith was unfaithful and interviewed associates and friends. Colleen Butler, who has known Smith 18 years, testified that Smith told her about affairs before, during and after the relationship. Butler said Smith went through women “almost like popcorn,” according to the judgment and was a “true predator” using his financial advisor role to take advantage of vulnerable women for financial gain. The IIROC investigation found Smith had lost $10,000 Butler had given him to invest.

“According to Ms. Butler, Mr. Smith has promised to repay her from the proceeds of this claim against Ms. Cartwright,” the judge wrote.

Cartwright said she is in dire straits financially due to Smith’s actions.

Baird dismissed Smith’s claim stating there must be “marriage-like” commitment and evidence of a couple living together two years continuously, and allowed Cartwright’s counterclaim, calculating an award of $23,250.

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