Kelowna couple runs up huge fines from strata council | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna couple runs up huge fines from strata council

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August 03, 2018 - 3:00 PM

KELOWNA - If you’re considering buying property under a strata scheme, here’s 54,000 reasons to ensure you know what you’re getting into.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered a Kelowna family to pay $54,285 in fines levied between 2012 and 2017 because they ignored the bylaws of the strata.

A strata is a legal building scheme, often seen in condominiums, that sets out bylaws and governance for owners. They often include standard enforcement and fines for noise but may also include strict standards for upkeep, design, what can be on patios and rules for pets, even children.

When Neil and Chantal Staerkle bought their home in the Highpointe strata in Glenmore, they were well aware of all bylaws describing how they could build and maintain their property but chose to ignore them. They violated building codes for the colour of their house, windows, stonework, fascia, landscaping, pool equipment enclosure and drainage, according to a recent decision by justice J. Miriam Gropper.

The strata council tried to help the Staerkles comply, but when they refused, they started levying maximum fines of $200 per week and the non-compliance continued for five years.

The Staerkles argued in court the fines were unreasonable, that their breaches were minimal, the building scheme was vague and they sought special relief for hardship circumstances.

“The amount of the judgment should be less than what the plaintiffs claim based on the defendants’ circumstances: they are from Switzerland and were not aware of the requirements in respect to their lot, they experienced family tragedies and they broke up in January 2017 and now must sell their property or be subject to foreclosure,” according to the decision.

But Gropper found nothing to mitigate their case — textbook breaches of the strata bylaws — and affirmed the fines saying there was no evidence they were treated unfairly, the bylaws were clear and they couldn’t make a case for special relief.

“They knew that they could not change their plans… that their requested design changes were rejected… [and] (t)hey proceeded in any event,” she said.

In addition to the $54,000, they’ll also have to pay interest and unspecified court costs and legal fees for the strata.

Gropper completed her decision by noting that although the fines have accumulated significantly, the property is listed for nearly $2.5 million.

“The fines are a small proportion of that amount. While the Court is sympathetic to the stress that the defendants were undergoing, it does not excuse the defendants’ behaviour, which was in clear violation of the building scheme and bylaw.”

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