$800 in smoking fines balloon to $13,000 in B.C. strata dispute | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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$800 in smoking fines balloon to $13,000 in B.C. strata dispute

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A B.C. condo owner who racked up $800 in smoking fines from his strata, will now have to pay $13,000 to cover the strata's legal fees.

In an unusual move, the Civil Resolution Tribunal ordered condo owner James Graham to pay the $13,000 legal bill the strata had received for pursuing the $800 smoking fines.

According to an Aug. 11 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, Strata Plan BCS2438 took Graham to the online tribunal in an effort to get him to stop smoking marijuana and cigarettes in his condo.

The Surrey strata also sought an order for Graham to pay the $800 in fines it had issued him.

The decision said one of Graham's neighbours had made more than 20 complaints about Graham's smoking to the strata.

The neighbours said the smoke flowed into her apartment, making some rooms unbearable to be in.

Over the course of one year, the neighbour had recorded more than 260 times the smell permeated her unit.

The strata responded and over time issued smoking fines totalling $800.

Graham denies he smoked in his condo and says the strata hasn't proved he was doing so.

However, the strata points to several emails Graham sent to the strata. In one email he said he had bought an air purifier and agreed to stop smoking. He also included a doctor's note saying he needed to smoke pot for medical reasons.

In another email, he refused to take steps to make his condo airtight and said he'd leave the property before smoking.

Along with investigations into the smoking conducted by the strata, the Tribunal said the emails were an acknowledgment that Graham was smoking in his condo.

The Tribunal then ordered Graham to pay the $800 in smoking fines.

READ MORE: B.C. strata spent $22,000 on lawyers, loses case over inflatable hot tub

The strata also argued its legal fees should be covered by Graham.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal only awards legal fees in exceptional circumstances.

However, the Tribunal found this case fit the bill.

"Here, although the dispute was not particularly complex... the parties’ submissions were lengthy, and there was a considerable volume of evidence," the Tribunal ruled. "Overall, given... the degree of both parties’ legal counsel’s involvement and the volume of evidence, I find extraordinary circumstances exist here entitling the strata to reimbursement."

The strata submitted lawyer's bills for $18,988.

The Tribunal then weighed up how much of the legal bill Graham should pay.

The Tribunal said while the case was not complex the strata’s legal counsel had specialized knowledge of strata disputes.

However, the Tribunal ruled that some of the lawyer's invoices weren't reasonable.

"The March 30, 2022 invoice for $8,635.68 was largely for reviewing and organizing the strata’s evidence and drafting the strata’s written submissions. On balance, I find this invoice’s amount is not proportional to the amount at issue in the dispute," the Tribunal.

The Tribunal cut this bill in half, deciding $4,000 is adequate.

Another invoice was presented for $3,368.

"I find this invoice’s amount is also not proportional to the amount at issue in this dispute," the Tribunal decided $1,500 is a more appropriate amount.

Graham also argued his legal bills should be covered, but the Tribunal ruled against it.

Ultimately, Graham was ordered to pay the $800 smoking fines plus legal fees for a total of $13,336.

READ MORE: Kelowna dog owner wins legal fight with strata over barking

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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