Vernon couple lose legal fight with strata over blocked lake view | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon couple lose legal fight with strata over blocked lake view

The Brooks Lane condo building.

A Vernon couple that claimed their lakeside condo had depreciated by $180,000 because their neighbour's "privacy screens" blocked their lake view have lost a legal case against the strata.

According to a Dec. 22 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, Joel and Samantha Becker argued their neighbour's "privacy screens" blocked their "entire" view of Okanagan Lake and pointed to 10 separate bylaws in evidence of why the strata should make their neighbours remove the screens.

The Becker's made multiple complaints to the strata council asking it to force their neighbours to take down the screens but the strata refused, so the couple then took it to the Civil Resolution Tribunal in an effort to have the Tribunal order the strata to enforce its bylaws and have the neighbours remove the screens.

Along with the removal of the screens, the couple also claimed $279,000 in the dispute, to cover $180,000 they'd lost in their property's value, as well as $50,000 for "hardship due to discrimination and alienation" as well as lawyers fees, and $12,500 to cover 10 days work they'd put into the issue.

However, in the unusually lengthy decision, Tribunal member Chad McCarthy picked apart the bylaws and found that the privacy screens didn't break any of the strata bylaws or restrictions put in place when the condos were built five or so years earlier.

And the Tribunal couldn't even determine what the privacy screens were made from.

The Beckers claimed the screens were made from pallet wood and chicken wire and decorated with plastic flowers.

But the Tribunal found that "despite the plastic leaves not being to the Beckers’ taste" this didn't contravene any bylaws.

The Tribunal also found the Beckers claim that the screens blocked their "entire" lake view wasn't "completely" accurate.

The Tribunal found that while the screen did block the view from parts of the Beckers second floor condo, the lake could be seen from other locations in their condo.

The Beckers argued the screens were a "nuisance" but the Tribunal ruled that the loss of a view – "even a beautiful view" did not constitute a "nuisance" under B.C. law.

The Beckers then argued the privacy screens were a structure and therefore prohibited without approval from the strata and broke bylaws put into place by the developer that built the condos known as a Statutory Building Scheme.

The couple backed up their claim with a letter from the administrators of the Statutory Building Scheme which said the screens weren't allowed under its bylaws.

However, the Tribunal ruled it wasn't bound by the Statutory Building Scheme bylaws and it didn't class the screens as structures under the strata's bylaws.

READ MORE: Poorly worded bylaw sees Kelowna condo owners lose strata dispute

The Beckers then argued that privacy screens are a type of fence or railing, which is prohibited under the strata's bylaws.

But again, the Tribunal disagreed.

"I find the screens are not themselves fences, as they do not physically separate the neighbouring strata lots, define the edges of the balconies or patios, or prevent or discourage access to an area," the decision reads. "The screens are moveable and are approximately one metre wide."

The Beckers then point to bylaws on "views and vegetation" which prohibit trees and shrubs from blocking views.

However, as the screen only contain plastic flowers these bylaws didn't fit either.

"I also find that (the) bylaw relates to preserving views unreasonably obstructed by trees, shrubs and other living vegetation, but it does not suggest that any strata lot views are protected for any other reason or in any other way," the decision reads.

READ MORE: B.C. man fined $15K by strata council for noise complaints wins case

After reviewing a possible 10 bylaw infractions the Tribunal ruled that no rules had been broken.

The Tribunal then dismissed the couple's claim their condo had depreciated by $180,000.

"The Beckers do not adequately explain how it is possible for the (neighbours) to instantly alter (the Beckers condo) value by $180,000 simply by repositioning the approximately one-metre-wide moveable privacy screens from behind the existing wall, fence, and glass privacy panels," the Tribunal ruled. "The Beckers submitted value calculations based on their strata lot having no lake view, which I find is not the case."

Ultimately, the Tribunal dismissed all of the Beckers's claims.

The decision says the condo was up for sale, and it doesn't appear on any current real estate listings, suggesting it has likely been sold. It was listed at $1,009,500.

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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