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BC realtor ordered to tear down home built without permits

Extensions to this Surrey home, shown in a December 2021 Google Street View image, will have to be torn down after a realtor failed to get permits from the city.
Extensions to this Surrey home, shown in a December 2021 Google Street View image, will have to be torn down after a realtor failed to get permits from the city.

A BC realtor lost in court after asking for forgiveness rather than permission for building a home without a permit.

Jagmohan Sidhu and his wife Gagandeep Sidhu built a two-storey addition to their Surrey home and a laneway house without a permit from the city. They unsuccessfully argued demolition would be "wasteful and too drastic" due to BC's housing crisis.

BC Supreme Court Justice John Gibb-Carsley agreed with the City of Surrey, ordering the Sidhus to tear down the addition and the laneway home within 60 days of his decision this week.

The justice called the build a "flagrant violation" of the city's bylaws in a decision published, Oct. 24, noting that Jagmohan should have been aware of the bylaws because he previously built a home on that property and he is a realtor.

The decision didn't say how large the home was before construction or how much square-footage was added. BC Assessment says the 4,500 square-foot home has four bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

The main house was built in 2020 and it's most recent tax value was nearly $2.5 million.

Beyond the lack of building permits, they also neglected to have any inspections during construction and exceeded the square footage limit for the property.

"Not only can the genie not be put back in the bottle because permits and inspections were not obtained at each step of the construction process," he said. "But in this case, the genie never fit in the bottle in the first place because both the size and the position of the structures are unlawful."

The city first noticed the construction in November 2021. Staff returned to the house and posted a stop work notice to the front.

By March 2022, the staff member returned and found the construction "advanced significantly." He sent the Sidhus letters in May warning them to get permits for the construction, but they went unclaimed and were returned to the city, according to the decision.

Bylaw officers attended twice in May, posting one more stop work notice to the garage door, but only met with Sidhu in October 2022. Sidhu gave them access, finding the laneway home's second floor had three people living in it, while Sidhu said he planned to make the first floor into a home gym.

The Sidhus argued the "perfectly good" rental units shouldn't be demolished because of the Lower Mainland's ongoing hosing shortage.

Justice Gibb-Carsley noted the construction was deliberately in violation of the city's bylaws and would not have been approved even had they applied for the permits.

"Even if there were potential remedies to bring the structures into compliance — which I conclude there are not — the court must not condone unlawful activity," he said, going on to say the province's solution to the housing crisis would not encourage unlawful construction.

The Sidhus will have to apply for a permit to demolish the building within 15 days of the decision.

"I conclude that the respondents flouted the city’s bylaws in a deliberate attempt to increase the size — and likely value — of their property by building the structures that they then rented out to produce income," Gibb-Carsley said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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