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B.C. 2022 strata disputes: cats, pet urine, water leaks and hot tubs

B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal adjudicates disputes between strata councils and condo owners.
A cat harness might prevent Surrey strata cat owners from being fined.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal dealt with some interesting, if not downright curious, strata disputes in 2022.

1. In December, a tribunal member labelled a noise complaint as “absurd.”

There, the tribunal dismissed a complaint from a strata owner who claimed his upstairs neighbours repeatedly breached a noise bylaw by permitting their visiting grandchild to run, play and jump in their strata lot.

Tribunal vice-chair Kate Campbell called the owner’s argument “an illogical, absurd interpretation” of a bylaw, stating it would effectively bar children from the building.

2. The tribunal dismissed a complaint in December about an off-leash cat running free through strata gardens and pooping in planters. It wasn’t anything to do with the rampant cat that got the complaint dismissed, though. The decision said the strata hadn’t allowed the owner to dispute fines.

3. In September, the tribunal ordered a Vancouver condo owner to pay his strata corporation $101,332 after finding he was responsible for a leaky fridge even though he had not yet moved in.

4. In August, the tribunal ordered a Campbell River strata to stop enforcing bylaws that would prevent owners from running for the strata’s council.

Tribunal member Micah Carmody said the strata council had passed bylaws at a special general meeting (SGM) in September 2021 limiting the ability of owners, in certain circumstances, to vote at general meetings and to stand for council election.

5. In May, a Richmond condo owner told the tribunal that a washing machine first found in a kitchen dishwasher space and then a living room had nothing to do with a Richmond strata leak.

The on-site building manager investigated leak complaints and found a washing machine installed where the standard dishwasher would be. The manager said the water lines had been installed improperly.

6. Also, in May, the tribunal ruled that a luxury building’s strata council was correct in unplugging an electric vehicle charger until he paid his bills.

7. Again, in May, the tribunal ruled a Shuswap woman could keep her three emotional support cats despite her strata’s ban on more than one pet.

She challenged the ban, saying the strata failed to meet its duty to accommodate the need under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

The tribunal member said the duty only arises if the resident has a genuine, disability-related need for the accommodation.

8. Continuing its cat theme, the tribunal said in March, a strata would only receive $100 of the $800 it claimed it was owed after two renters allegedly left garbage in a stairwell and let their pet pee in an elevator.

The strata wasn’t entitled to the remaining $700 because it didn’t notify both owner and renters when bylaws were broken, the tribunal said.

9. In April, a tribunal vice-chair Kate Campbell rejected a complaint from a woman who claimed her strata ‘unlawfully’ accused her of harassing and bullying the gardener.

Campbell said the gardener wrote to the strata council complaining that, in May 2021, the woman “aggressively” yelled at her about lawn mowing preferences, questioned her about her work, and approached the mower while the gardener was working.

10. And then there are the hot tubs. Oh, last but certainly not least, the hot tubs.

The tribunal handled multiple such disputes in 2022.

A Vancouver strata spent $22,000 fighting to have a patio hot tub removed only to have the tribunal in August find the tub is patio furniture and could stay.

In a November decision, a tribunal member said a man had put an inflatable spa on his balcony, but the strata said it was a hot tub and began fining him. The tribunal cancelled the fines but stopped short of ordering the strata to allow the man to keep the spa.

In June, the tribunal ordered a strata to stop enforcing its hot tub ban. A man who had a hot tub raised the ire of his strata council, which later created a bylaw against hot tubs and then tried to enforce it before passing it at an annual general meeting (AGM).

The tribunal member said the Strata Property Act says such a rule cannot be enforced until passed at the next AGM.

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