惱人的集合式住宅問題/Troubling resident in a strata building

屋主與租客,有時會有紛爭,倘若租客的行為過於誇張,影響到其他鄰居或租客,屋主可以下驅逐令。但是如果是集合式住宅(公寓/城市屋),屋主自己本身就是行為乖張,影響他人呢? 日前就有一位集合式住宅的其中一位屋主的兒子,因為其行為嚴重且沒有理由的影響其他屋主。為此,管委會(Strata)特別修法列出其大樓住戶行為準則,予以勸戒。但是,這位仁兄依然我行我素。於是管委會開罰且警告,希望能夠停止這類行為發生。但都沒成效。最終管委會把這件事訴諸於法律。

2012年一月,BC最高法院裁定且下令此屋主必須出售這間公寓單位,且搬出去這棟大樓。銷售之間,這位仁兄也必須遵守大樓法規。不准繼續防礙其他住戶的生活。但是道高一尺魔高一丈,於同年七月,此仁兄尋求上訴,且由上訴法院解釋集合式住宅的第173節的合法性。根據法院解釋,此住宅法並沒有視強制賣屋視為住戶行為不檢的為一解決方式。但是法院也沒有說強制賣屋不算是一個合情合理得解決方案。在此被告和上訴法庭達成共識,不在騷擾其他住戶的情況下,此案子告一段落。

2013年二月,管委會重返高等法院,訴說此一住戶仍然故態復萌。此時高等法院也無法做視不管,直接以藐視法庭為基礎,又無法也無意負擔罰款,法院要一次解決這問題,最終還是決定強制要求屋主賣屋。同年十一月,此住戶又求助於上訴法庭,結果上訴法庭發現其經濟狀況無法負擔罰款也無意改善目前的行為,於是認同高等法院判決,予以駁回。

What remedies are available when one of those inhabitants disturbs the quiet enjoyment of others living in close proximity and, through their behavior, effectively decreases the value of the neighbouring units?

If the building is a rental property, the landlord has the right, under the Residential Tenancy Act, to terminate the tenancy of the offending party if it can be established that the offending party “significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another occupant”1 of the building. The remedies are more complicated if the building is strata titled with each occupant owning their unit.

How does one reconcile the right of quiet enjoyment in collective living arrangements with the principle of property ownership? That issue was recently addressed in a long standing dispute between a strata owner and her son and their strata corporation.

The issue arose from the abusive and annoying behaviour of, primarily, the strata owner’s son, who lived in the unit with his mother, toward a number of neighbouring owners. The strata bylaws set out behavioral standards which were clearly not being met. Numerous meetings, warnings and fines did not change the behaviour. Finally, the strata corporation sought relief from the courts.

In January 2012, the BC Supreme Court issued an order2 requiring the offending strata owner to list the unit for sale and, until it was sold, abide by the strata corporation’s rules and refrain from making loud noises or obscene gestures or uttering abusive or obscene comments to other members of the strata development or their families.

That decision was appealed and, in July 2012, the BC Court of Appeal ruled that Section 173 of the Strata Property Act was not broad enough to support a direct order to sell the unit as a result of the bad behaviour. However, the Court left open the question of whether an order for sale could be made as a remedy for failing to abide with an order of the court.3 The Court upheld that part of the order which required the offending parties to refrain from disturbing their neighbours.

In February 2013, the strata corporation returned to BC Supreme Court and argued that the continuing bad behavior of the offending residents was a breach of the court order to refrain from making loud noises, or obscene gestures or uttering any obscene or abusive comments to other members of the strata development or their families. The Court concluded that such continuing behaviour was a breach and found the offending residents to be in contempt.4 The usual penalty for contempt is either a financial penalty or an order of committal or both.

The Court concluded, in light of the offending parties’ financial circumstances, that a financial penalty would likely remain unpaid just as the Strata Corporation’s fines had remained unpaid. The Court was also reluctant to impose a jail sentence. The Court concluded that an order to sell the unit was the appropriate remedy for their contempt of the court order. Not surprisingly that order was appealed and in November 2013 the BC Court of Appeal upheld that decision requiring the unit to be sold.5

This case should be of interest to REALTORS® representing strata owners who see property values being diminished by the conduct of abusive neighbours, as well as licensees involved in property management. It illustrates that there are limits to the concept of “a person’s home is their castle” when that home is part of the collective living arrangements found in a strata property development. However, as indicated by these facts, an order of sale is the last, not first, resort of a strata corporation when dealing with problem owners. (930)

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