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B.C. strata fined condo owner more than $15K because it misinterpreted its own bylaws, tribunal rules

Condos and apartment buildings are seen in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Condos and apartment buildings are seen in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A strata has been ordered to reverse more than $15,000 in bylaw fines that were "unfairly" charged to a condo owner who rented out his unit, B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled.

The decision, posted online Monday, notes that the owner said he was renting one room in his two-bedroom unit to a roommate – which the tribunal found was violating a bylaw that prohibited renting out all or part the unit to anyone except family and unless hardship had been established.

But that's not why the strata said they began fining Berge Hamian $500 per week nearly two years ago, according to the decision.

"I find that the strata fined Mr. Hamian because he did not provide proof of residency, something the bylaws did not require. In doing so, I find the strata’s conduct was harsh, wrongful, and unjust, and thus met the definition of significant unfairness established by the courts," tribunal vice-chair J. Garth Cambrey wrote.

Hamian was asking for the reversal of $15,200 in fines as well as more that $55,000 in damages "which he says is fair compensation for the stress and anxiety created by the strata and for time spent on dealing with the issue," the decision says.

The strata, in a counterclaim, was asking for payment of $18,200 in fines, which was the amount owing at the time the claim was filed. It was also asking for additional weekly fines until Hamian stopped renting out all of his suite as well as an order prohibiting future rentals.

Ultimately, Cambrey found the fines were being imposed because the strata had misinterpreted its own bylaws and told the condo owner he was not allowed to rent out his suite unless he lived there with the tenant, which the strata alleged Hamian did not.

"At no time did the strata address the fact that rental of part or all of (the unit) was contrary to its bylaws. The reason the strata imposed a $500 bylaw in January 2022 was because Mr. Hamian did not convince it that he resided (there)," the decision says.

A residency requirement was nowhere to be found in the bylaws and so the tribunal didn’t make a determination on where Hamian lived or if his claim that he was renting part of his suite to a roommate was proven.

On the issue of prohibiting future rentals, the tribunal noted that legislation in British Columbia changed in November of 2022, and that limiting or banning rentals in strata buildings is no longer allowed.

"Any bylaws purporting to do so are invalid," Cambrey said.

The strata was ordered to reverse all fines imposed between January 2022 and the date of the decision. If a $500 fine was imposed every week during that time period the total would be more than $40,000.

The tribunal dismissed Hamian's claim for damages because he had not submitted proof of lost wages or medical documentation to support his claim of "stress or mental distress."

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