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Cat sitter who refused to leave owner's home ordered to pay $3,500 in damages

A cat is shown in this file photo (Image credit: Pexels) A cat is shown in this file photo (Image credit: Pexels)
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A B.C. man whose cat sitter refused to leave his home has been awarded $3,500 as compensation for the 10-day ordeal – which only ended when the police got involved.

The province's Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled on the dispute Tuesday, outlining how the arrangement broke down and finding that the cat sitter "repudiated" her contract when she said she would no longer care for the pet and trespassed by continuing to stay in the house.

The cat sitter, Maya Zysman, was the one who first filed a complaint with the tribunal – saying the owner had breached their contract in a number of ways, including by failing to tell her that the cat was sick before leaving on his trip and by sending the police to evict her without cause.

Jeff Sims, in a counter-claim, said that Zysman terminated the contract and "subsequently tried to extort him for more money in exchange for leaving his house," according to the decision.

Tribunal member David Jiang explains that the pair had an agreement that Zysman would stay in the downstairs suite of the home for about a month, taking care of the cat, keeping an eye on the house and watering the plants.

CAT FALLS ILL, ARRANGEMENT BREAKS DOWN

Four days into the cat-sitting gig, the feline became ill. A person that Sims had designated to help Zysman out if needed was called in to facilitate a trip to the vet two days later.

Although the veterinarian found the 17-year-old cat did have health problems – including pancreatitis and likely kidney disease – the tribunal found that Sims had taken "reasonable steps" to make sure his pet would be healthy while he was away, including check-ups in advance of his departure.

Zysman, in a Zoom call where she was updating Sims on the outcome of the vet visit, told Sims she "did not feel trusted, wanted to return home, and refused to take care of the house or garden," according to the decision.

The next day she sent an email saying her plans were “ruined,” and that she no longer felt comfortable staying in the home, the decision continues.

At this point, the tribunal found, Zysman "repudiated" the contract.

"Ms. Zysman refused to continue taking care of both the house and cat. Those were her core responsibilities," Jiang wrote.

"I also find it clear that Mr. Sims as the innocent party accepted Ms. Zysman’s repudiation, terminated the contract, and hired (someone else) to take over Ms. Zysman’s duties. I find he is entitled to sue for damages."

REFUSAL TO LEAVE, FURTHER DEMANDS

The end of the contract, the decision noted, meant that Zysman was no longer entitled to stay in the house.

"I find that Mr. Sims could lawfully ask her to leave at any time. However … she stayed and made further demands," according to the decision.

Zysman lives in the U.S. and had flown to B.C. to take the gig, which she would do while scoping out local real estate.

After the arrangement broke down, she started insisting that Sims pay for her unexpectedly early trip home and demanding very specific terms such as a non-stop flight, alternative accommodation until her departure, and payment for her trip to and from the airport.

However, Jiang notes that the pair's agreement did not include any travel costs or arrangements and so he found the cat sitter was not entitled to them. Nevertheless, Sims did end up giving her money "under duress," the decision notes.

POLICE CALLED TO REMOVE CAT SITTER

Ten days after Zysman's initial refusal to care for the cat and her initial demand that Sims pay for her travel "ASAP" – the police got involved.

"Mr. Sims reasonably contacted the police as Ms. Zysman had no legal right to stay at the house," Jiang wrote.

"The reports show that police confirmed Ms. Zysman was not a tenant and had been asked to leave several times. She refused the police’s request to leave. They advised she would be arrested if she did not leave. At that point she agreed to leave and started packing," the decision continues.

The tribunal found that Sims was entitled to be reimbursed for the $1,600 he spent hiring a replacement cat sitter, $720 for the flight he booked, $500 he paid to have a "mediator" deliver the plane fare, $300 for having the locks changed, and $14 in roaming charges to pay for the phone calls he made dealing with the dispute while abroad.

He was also awarded $152.81 in pre-judgment interest and $75 in CRT fees, for total damages of $3,461.81.

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