Neighbours seek $1K in B.C. strata dispute over squirrel feeding | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Neighbours seek $1K in B.C. strata dispute over squirrel feeding

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January 28, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Several residents of a B.C. trailer park have failed to get their neighbour fined after they took him to a strata tribunal in an effort to have him barred from feeding the squirrels.

The three mobile home residents, who coincidentally are all named Douglas, launched a Civil Resolution Tribunal case against their neighbour, Jerry Swick, arguing that his feeding of the squirrels had led to a rodent infestation that was causing damage to their homes.

The three Douglases also named the strata council in the case, arguing the Tribunal should order the strata to enforce its nuisance bylaw and fine Swick, as well as creating a specific bylaw prohibiting residents from feeding wildlife.

They also sought $1,000 in compensation to cover the damage caused by the rodents which chewed electrical wires, exterior blinds, and ruined parts of their mobile homes.

According to the Jan. 26 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, the four residents live in separate mobile homes on a 1.3-acre strata lot backing onto a forest and a creek. It was unspecific about where in B.C.

The decision says Swick regularly fed the squirrels near his trailer and left food out on a feeding station at the end of the lot.

The neighbours, Douglas Cappadocia, Doug Martin, and Douglas Pearse, all asked Swick to stop feeding the squirrels but he continued, says the decision.

In January 2018, Cappadocia made a written complaint to the strata about the squirrel feeding.

In May that year, the strata council asked its residents not to feed the wildlife, although no official rules or bylaws were drawn up.

More strata meetings took place in 2018 and 2019 and Swick finally agreed that any feeding of wildlife would take place at the bottom of the lot.

However, in February 2020, the Douglases saw Swick spreading chips and bread on the ground for the squirrels at the back door of his gazebo.

The decision says Swick admitted to feeding the squirrels and said he did it in "childish retaliation" against the "constant surveillance" of his neighbours that he and his wife endured.

"Giving the 'lookie-loos' something to complain about," Swick says in the decision.

After this incident, Swick agreed he would not feed the squirrels or any other wildlife again.

However, the three Douglases took the dispute to the Tribunal in an effort to get an order prohibiting Swick from feeding the squirrels. They didn't have much luck though.

“I find it unnecessary to order Mr. Swick to refrain from doing what he is already voluntarily refraining from doing,” the Tribunal ruled.

The three Douglases weren’t successful in their claims against the strata either.

The neighbours argued the Tribunal should order the strata to “enforce and fine” residents that feed the wildlife and that they are being treated unfairly by the strata council.

However, the Tribunal ruled it has no power to impose fines on owners.

The Tribunal also found that while the Strata Property Act states strata councils do have to enforce bylaws, they must also act “reasonably” and don’t have to issue a fine for every infraction.

“I find the strata took reasonable steps to enforce its bylaws and address the wildlife feeding complaints,” the decision reads.

The Tribunal also refused to mandate the strata council adopt a bylaw that prohibited feeding wildlife, saying this can only be done if an issue is deemed “significantly unfair” and feeding squirrels didn’t fit that bill.

As for the $1,000 in compensation, the Tribunal says that other than saying that rodents have multiplied at “an alarming rate” and submitting “photos of a rat on a deck,” the three Douglases hadn’t put forward any evidence to prove this.

“Given the undisputed evidence that (the lot) backs onto a forested area and a creek, I agree with the strata and Mr. Swick that some wildlife and rodent presence, and resulting damage, is likely natural,” says the decision. “Even assuming rodents caused the damage, the evidence does not allow me to determine whether the same damage would have occurred had Mr. Swick never fed the rodents.”

The Tribunal goes on to say that just because it didn’t order Swick to stop feeding the squirrels the decision should not be interpreted as suggesting that he can or should feed the wildlife.

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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