Surrey strata dispute over smoking to cost owner more than $13,000 in fines and legal expenses

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      A dispute over smoking is going to cost one owner at a Surrey townhouse complex a lot of money.

      A Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered James Graham to pay the strata a total of $13,336.83 to cover fines, legal expenses, and other fees.

      CRT member Nav Shukla also directed Graham to stop smoking and vaping inside his home and on the strata’s common property.

      What hit the man the most in terms of costs was not the fines slapped on him by the strata for violating nuisance bylaws.

      The fines came up to only $800.

      However, Graham is also to reimburse the strata $4,956.49 for legal expenses before the CRT dispute, and $7,320 for legal costs during the tribunal proceedings.

      In her reasons for decision, Shukla noted that the tribunal rules provide that CRT will not order one party to pay another party’s legal expenses in a strata dispute “unless there are extraordinary circumstances which make it appropriate”.

      “Here, although the dispute was not particularly complex, I find that given Mr. Graham’s representation by his legal counsel in this dispute it was reasonable for the strata to request assistance from its legal counsel,” Shukla wrote.

      The strata also required legal services to enforce its bylaws against Graham before the dispute reached the tribunal.

      Because of the “degree of both parties’ legal counsel’s involvement and the volume of evidence”,  Shukla established that “extraordinary circumstances exist here entitling the strata to reimbursement”.

      Shukla related that by way of counterclaim, Graham sought reimbursement of his legal expenses before and during the CRT dispute.

      However, Shukla noted, there is no provision in law entitling Graham to repaid for legal expenses.

      The strata alleged that smoke coming from Graham’s home permeated a neighbouring strata lot.

      The resident in the said neighbouring home complained that the smoke was interfering with her enjoyment of her property and was having a bad effect on her health.