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BC woman paid $43,000 in lawyer fees to fight her strata

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A BC resident who spent $43,000 on lawyers fighting her strata over an extension that was built 45 years ago, got no relief in court and will still have her fate decided by her strata council.

According to a May 15 BC Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, Strata VR42 took owner Cheryl Learmonth to the online Tribunal over her use of a 4.5 x 17 foot extension that was built onto her townhouse decades before she bought it.

The decision says the strata wanted the tribunal to order Learmonth to stop using the mudroom and part of a bedroom that was added to the house in 1982.

It says she has no permission or special privilege to use the enclosure which was built on common property.

The strata also argued Learmonth should be responsible for the costs of dismantling the extension.

Learmonth counterclaimed arguing she should have exclusive use of the extension and the strata should refund the $43,360 she spent on lawyers dealing with the issue. She also claims she's being treated significantly unfairly by the strata.

READ MORE: B.C. strata loses legal case over deck

According to the decision, the townhouses were built in 1972 and the extension was added in 1978.

For years no problems ever arose because of the extension.

Then in 2003, the old owner began paying the strata a fee because the extension had been built on common property.

Learmonth took over this agreement when she bought the townhouse in 2019.

It's unclear why, but somewhere along the way the relationship soured with the strata and the decades-old extension became an issue.

The lengthy decision goes through the history of the extension and how it should be dealt with.

The decision says there was never any approval to build the extension, but it had been used exclusively used by the home's owners and was last updated in 1984. In 2010 the strata even paid to have the siding done.

Why the strata fell out with Learmonth isn't known but in 2021 she did try unsuccessfully to take them to the tribunal over how the strata calculated its fees. The tribunal refused to resolve the dispute saying it was an issue for the BC Supreme Court.

The decision says that same year, the two parties tried to come to an agreement, but failed.

READ MORE: B.C. strata order to pay $1,000 for ignoring noise complaint

Learmonth pointed out the extension is in plain sight and the strata did nothing for decades to address the owner's exclusive use for what is technically common property.

The strata stuck to its guns and says she has to pay to have it taken down.

The townhouse owner also says she is being treated significantly unfairly as other owners have also encroached on common property.

And the tribunal agreed, stating the strata has treated her "significantly unfairly."

"While the strata claims Ms. Learmonth is to blame for failing to reach an agreement, it admits it has not reached an agreement with other owners occupying common property without permission," the tribunal ruled.

Ultimately, the tribunal ruled the strata must hold a special general meeting and allow strata owners to vote on what should happen.

If Learmonth isn't successful, the strata must pay for it to be removed.

MORE READ: 'Insensitive' strata ordered to pay condo owner $19,000

The Tribunal dismissed her request that her lawyer fees be paid by the strata.

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