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B.C. landlord ordered to pay $5,400 for tenant's spitting, garbage-tossing, vandalism

A generic rent sign in front of a home. (Shutterstock) A generic rent sign in front of a home. (Shutterstock)
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A B.C. landlord has been ordered to pay $5,400 in strata fines racked up by a former tenant who was accused of breaching the building's bylaws 75 times.

Those breaches included threatening the building manager, doxing strata council members, vandalizing common property, throwing garbage on the lobby floor, spitting on a wall, and "wiping discharge from the tenant's dog's eye and smearing it on the elevator wall," according to a recent decision from the province's small claims tribunal.

The building’s strata took condo owner Amrit Paal Burmy to the Civil Resolution Tribunal seeking $9,400 in unpaid fines for his former tenant’s alleged behaviour, and was awarded more than half that total – though tribunal member Eric Regehr also sided with the landlord and dismissed $4,000 in fines on technicalities.

Between the strata and Burmy, there was no disagreement on whether the breaches took place.

“The tenant disputed some of the allegations at the time, but in this dispute, the owner does not specifically contest any of the allegations,” Regehr noted in his decision. “Most of the allegations are undeniable anyway because they are either written communications or conduct captured on surveillance video.”

But for some of the most serious allegations, Burmy argued the strata failed to properly apply its own bylaws, and Regehr agreed.

The strata issued $3,200 in fines for harassing emails, texts and social media posts from the tenant, including posts that doxed council members by sharing their “personal contact information and places of employment alongside allegations that they are all racists,” according to the decision.

For those incidents, the strata accused Burmy’s tenant of violating the building’s bylaw 8.1, which, among other things, bars the “use of a strata lot or common property” in ways that cause a nuisance or hazard to others.

Burmy successfully argued emails, texts and social media posts couldn’t violate that bylaw because they do not involve “use” of the building.

“I have no doubt that the tenant’s conduct interfered with the strata council members’ ability to manage the strata and feel safe in their homes,” Regehr wrote.

“However, I do not consider sending emails and posting to social media to be part of the ‘use’ of a strata lot, even if the tenant was home when they composed them. Digital communication is inherently mobile and unconnected to any specific location.”

The tribunal member noted he would have upheld those fines if they had been applied under the building’s bylaw 45, which warns that “disrespectful behaviour towards owners, residents, visitors, and contractors” won’t be tolerated.

Burmy also managed to get another $800 in fines tossed because the tenant had not been properly notified.

Under B.C.’s Strata Property Act, stratas must notify both the landlord and tenant about alleged bylaw breaches, give them an opportunity to respond, then notify them in writing about whether the strata council has approved a fine.

For four approved fines of $200, the tribunal found the strata had only completed half of that final step by notifying the landlord in writing, but not the tenant.

“These procedural requirements are strict, with no leeway,” Regehr wrote. “If the strata does not perfectly comply with (the SPA), any resulting fines are invalid.”

Burmy was also ordered to pay his strata $296.11 in pre-judgment interest and $112.50 in tribunal fees, for a total of $5,808.61 – though the landlord might be able to recover most of that money from his former tenant.

According to a B.C. government guide on renting in strata properties, while stratas can pursue a tenant’s fines from the landlord, the tenant “will then owe this sum to the owner.” 

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