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B.C. strata tried to charge everyone extra for gas appliances

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A B.C. strata that charged condo owners a fee for having gas appliances has been ordered to strap the practice and refund all the money it charged.

According to a Jan. 19 B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, the case involves a downtown Vancouver condo building that charged $32 a month to condo owners that had gas fireplaces and $12 for other gas appliances.

A couple that owned a condo in the building, Lois and Russell Ker took the Strata LMS 280 to the online tribunal arguing the charges went against the Strata Property Act and were "unreasonable."

The case focused on the legislation of what a strata may charge for and the overly complex definition of "common assets."

"(The Kers) say the strata cannot charge a user fee for the use or consumption of natural gas because to do so would be 'to segregate common expenses such as utilities for strata lots on a user fee basis,'" the decision reads.

The strata disagreed and said the gas line used to transport the natural gas to the strata lots is a common asset.

The Tribunal then looked at the definition of "common asset."

READ MORE: Kelowna man loses legal battle with strata over vacation rental

"I find the pipes themselves can be common property but cannot be a common asset as the strata suggests," the Tribunal rules. "However, this dispute is not about the pipes, it is about charging a user fee for the use of natural gas, which I find is a common asset.

"Applied broadly, I find the natural gas itself that flows through the pipes forms part of the strata’s common assets since it is purchased by the strata from a natural gas supplier. Therefore, I find the strata can charge a user fee for the use of natural gas," the Tribunal rules.

However, while the strata had the right to charge for the gas, the Tribunal then looked at whether those fees were reasonable.

"I do not find that the strata’s explanation of how the user fees are calculated is objectively reasonable," The Tribunal rules. "The explanation provided by the strata in its submissions is confusing and unclear and based on speculative assumptions. For example, there is no consideration of when a strata lot is not used, such as while the owner is on vacation. There is also no attempt to calculate actual gas consumption, which may be different for different owners depending on the use, make and model of the fireplace or appliance."

So while the Tribunal ruled that the strata can charge the user fee, it then decided the strata hadn't gone about charging it fairly.

The Tribunal ordered the strata to immediately stop charging for gas use and to refund the Kers any charges for the gas.

READ MORE: Revelstoke strata broke human rights code over definition of 'family'

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