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Strata forced B.C. family to move from their own home because they had a baby

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

A Vancouver couple was forced to sell and move out of their own home amid a housing crisis after being hit with multiple fines because their newborn child violated a bylaw, and they're hoping the province's human rights watchdog will be able to help.

Christina James and Matt Rowland were living in Fairview Village in Vancouver when they became parents. James and Rowland purchased a one-bedroom unit in the complex in 2009 and moved in in 2014. As per the strata’s bylaws, only two people were allowed to be permanent residents of the unit.

Just a few months after their first child was born in August 2017, the couple were sent a notice that said they were in violation of the strata’s occupancy bylaw and multiple fines followed.

“Council is under an obligation to apply the bylaws equitably, so regrettably, we must inform you that you are not in compliance with the bylaws,” the letter said. “Council understands that this may be difficult for you, and therefore council is giving you 12 months notice to comply with the bylaws.”

James' and Rowland’s only viable option was to sell, and so they began looking for a property to rent, likely in Vancouver, a city with notoriously high rent prices.

During this time, the couple said they had to wait eight months for the strata to complete necessary construction work before they could move.

In June 2019, James and Rowland had their second child. By then, the strata had increased its fines to $200 for each breach of the bylaw, applied every seven days until the owners “came into compliance”.

The couple eventually moved to a rental property in Dec. 2019, and sold their unit in March 2021.

James and Rowland allege discrimination due to family status. In a decision posted this week, the strata asked the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to toss the case but it was denied, meaning it will go to a full hearing unless they settle before then.

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