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Tribunal rules B.C. strata treated owner 'significantly unfairly' in denying balcony request

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A B.C. strata that delayed the approval of a resident's balcony extension for two years has been found to have treated the member "significantly unfairly" and lost a legal challenge.

According to a March 8 B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, Chilliwack resident Alison Reeves applied to Strata Plan BCS 2235 to have the balcony on her townhouse extended by four-and-a-half feet in early 2021.

Reeves applied for a similar balcony alteration that several of her neighbours had done in the last few years.

However, the strata refused to approve the alteration saying it had "some questions regarding the legal basis of such approvals."

The strata also said it had put her application on hold until after its Annual General Meeting when a full review of its bylaws that included a specific review of balcony extensions would take place.

Unhappy with the strata's response, Reeves requested a hearing over the matter.

However, the strata continued to sit on the balcony extension approval and said it would look at it once the Annual General Meeting took place and the bylaws had been changed.

Almost six months later, the meeting happened but the vote didn't pass so the bylaws remained the same.

It's unclear when, but at some point Reeves launched a legal challenge and took the strata to the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal in an effort to have her balcony extension approved.

Reeves argued the strata was obligated to approve her request because it approved similar balcony alterations for her neighbours, which she said set a precedent.

She also accused the strata of treating her "significantly unfairly" because she originally applied for the alteration two years earlier.

The strata argued the other balcony extensions were improperly approved.

It said it will reconsider her request but it wants to amend its bylaws on balconies before it makes a decision.

READ MORE: B.C. couple ordered to remove laminate flooring after strata wins legal fight

The strata also argued the balcony extension would be a "significant" change to the property and therefore needs to be voted on.

However, the tribunal found the strata provided little evidence that the change would be "significant" and only submitted that the previous owner was "having a fit" about another balcony extension.

Unsurprisingly, that didn't cut it as evidence.

On the other hand, Reeves' evidence showed that the balcony was low to the ground and her neighbours' privacy would not be disrupted.

The tribunal parsed through the strata's bylaws and found the strata did have "broad discretion" to approve or deny the alteration.

"While I have found the strata has authority to withhold its permission for Miss Reeves to alter (the balcony), that does not mean the strata has acted fairly in doing so," the tribunal ruled.

The tribunal ruled the strata had an obligation not to make "significantly unfair" decisions.

"The strata has failed to provide a rational basis for denying or delaying Miss Reeves’ request. Absent any rational basis, it's arguably inequitable to treat Miss Reeves differently from other owners," the tribunal ruled.

Property owners in legal disputes will often accuse stratas of treating them "significantly unfairly" but rarely manage to prove this.

However, in this case, the tribunal ruled Reeves had been treated significantly unfairly by the strata and ordered it to approve her balcony extension within 30 days.

READ MORE: B.C. couple sue strata after multiple attempts to block renos

The strata will also have to refund the $225 Reeves spent taking the legal action.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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