Is an hour long commute reasonable? Abbotsford man working in Vancouver gets answer from tribunal

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      Eric Kardoes has lived in Abbotsford since 1994.

      For 24 years until 2018, he commuted by car to Burnaby for work, which took him roughly an hour.

      Kardoes now works a bit farther in Vancouver, but it’s close to the border between the two cities.

      Kardoes says he can’t do long drives anymore because of health reasons.

      The Abbotsford man rents a condo in Vancouver, so he can be close to work.

      He has a tenant at his Abbotsford townhouse, but the renter is leaving.

      Kardoes, who has a one-year exemption from the strata’s rental prohibition bylaw, wants his strata to grant him another exemption.

      The strata refused, and argued that he could either drive from Abbotsford or take the transit.

      According to the strata, Kardoes was given a previous exemption from the rental prohibition bylaw because he was working for a while at the time in the Kootenays, which is not a local area.

      The dispute has reached a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, and tribunal member Eric Regehr has reached a decision in favour of the strata.

      According to Regehr, the Strata Property Act provides that an owner may apply for an exemption from a strata’s bylaw prohibiting rentals if the bylaw causes “hardship” to the owner.

      Regehr noted that based on Kardoes’ budget, the man cannot afford to rent a condo in Vancouver, and leave his Abbotsford townhome vacant.

      “In short, he would need the rental income to stay solvent,” Regehr noted.

      This means that the “dispute turns on whether it was reasonable for the strata to base its decision on the assumption that the applicant could commute”.

      “The applicant says that even though he tolerated the commute to Burnaby for many years, it took a physical and psychological toll on him,” Regehr wrote.

      Kardoes claimed that he would “no longer find it tolerable and that it would be bad for his health”.

      “I take the strata’s point to be that the applicant cannot now claim that the commute is unreasonable having done a similar commute for so long,” Regehr stated.

      Regehr also noted that the strata has pointed out that Kardoes “can reasonably commute by public transit, which may be inconvenient but is not a hardship”.

      “So, is an hour long commute reasonable?” Regehr asked.

      Answer his own question, Regehr wrote that it’s a difficult one to answer “because it is an inherently personal choice”.

      “A long commute may be tolerable, or even enjoyable, to some people but unacceptable to others,” Regehr wrote.

      “So, just because other owners in the strata commute to Vancouver everyday, does not make it reasonable,” the tribunal member continued. “By the same token, just because other people, like the applicant, do not want to commute to Vancouver, does not make it unreasonable.”

      According to Regehr, there is “no hard rule about what length of commute is unreasonable”.

      Regehr noted that Kardoes’ “personal circumstances do not support his position that the commute is unreasonable”.

      “For example, he has no family obligations and he works a standard 40 hour work week,” according to Regehr.

      The tribunal member noted that Kardoes had tried to sell his townhouse.

      Kardoes had even lowered his asking price by $42,000 below what he had paid for the unit, but without success.

      "He said that if he could not sell it, he would need another year exemption from the rental prohibition bylaw," Regehr wrote.

      Regehr gave little weight to a doctor’s letter submitted by Kardoes.

      The doctor wrote that Kardoes takes medication that is sedating, but Regehr noted that the sedating effect “must be mild” because the doctor “does not state any concerns about the applicant driving generally”.

      “On balance, I find that the strata acted reasonably when it decided to assess the applicant’s hardship application on the assumption that he could live in the strata lot and commute to work,” Regehr ruled.