Richmond condo owner wins $500 damages for neighbour’s second-hand smoke, aromatherapy scents

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      Pui-Ling Yee has allergies and asthma.

      Because of her health condition, the Richmond condo owner cannot tolerate second-hand smoke and aromatherapy scents.

      However, for around a year, she had to live next door to a neighbour who smoked almost everyday.

      After Yee complained to her neighbour, she began to smell arometherapy scents as well.

      She brought the matter to the attention of the strata council.

      According to a note from her physician, the smoke and scents worsened her allergies and asthma.

      Her deteriorating health prevented her from sleeping peacefully.

      The smoking stopped only when Yee’s neighbour moved out.

      But that’s not the end of the story.

      Yee filed a claim against the strata council before the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal.

      The woman asserted that the council failed to investigate her complaint in a timely manner.

      Yee likewise argued that the strata acted in an unfair manner for not seasonably enforcing bylaws on nuisance.

      The bylaw states that a resident should not cause nuisance or hazard to another person.

      For its part, the strata argued that it acted in a reasonable manner.

      The council also maintained that enforcing bylaws take time.

      Tribunal member David Jiang recalled all these in his reasons for decision in favour of Yee.

      Jiang concluded that the strata failed to enforce bylaws in a reasonable manner.

      According to Jiang, this left Yee exposed to the hazards of second-hand smoke and aromatherapy scents from the condo of her neighbour, who was identified only as TLC.

      “The breaches started in January 2019 and ended once TLC moved out in early February 2020,” Jiang wrote.

      He also accepted Yee’s evidence that the “breaches likely occurred on a near-daily basis”.

      “While some months passed before the strata completed its investigations and finally decided to fine TLC in January 2020, the correspondence shows the strata was taking time to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jiang wrote.

      Among the correspondence reviewed by Jiang was one from TLC’s realtor, EC, to the strata on March 22, 2019.

      "EC wrote that TLC was elderly and 'can’t quit smoking'," the tribunal member related.

      The realtor added that TLC would "close the patio door and add a strip of glue under her door to try to keep smells from exiting her strata lot".

      Jiang ordered the strata council to pay Yee $500 as “compensation for significant unfairness”.

      The tribunal member also directed the strata to pay the woman $137.53 for interest and filing expenses.