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Evicting B.C. condo owners who repeatedly violate COVID-19 orders not simple: experts

Last Updated Feb 1, 2021 at 11:57 am PST

FILE - Downtown Vancouver. (Riley Phillips, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Process to remove owner for repeatedly violating COVID orders isn't simple process: Condo association, Vancouver lawyer

Some wonder what can be done to deal with repeat offenders who flout COVID-19 rules and hold parties in B.C. condos

Man was arrested Sunday after police attended a large party at a downtown Vancouver penthouse suite

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – What can be done about problematic condo owners who repeatedly break COVID-19 rules? This question is being raised after a Vancouver man was arrested Sunday when police attended his penthouse, which was allegedly being run as a makeshift nightclub in recent months.

There are steps property owners in a building can take against other owners but, it isn’t all that simple.

Tony Gioventu with the Condominium Home Owners Association says some buildings in downtown Vancouver have hired security guards — but if you want to kick an owner out of a building — it’s complicated.

“It’s a timely, costly, complicated process. So, you know, you can’t just boot an owner and say, ‘We’re going to sell your property.’ It’s a lengthy application to the Supreme Court, there’s going to have to be credible evidence that the conduct of the person is really, genuinely placing the occupants of the building at a significant risk, and the courts are going to have to grant some sort of order that if the person doesn’t comply with the order, probably the next step would be the recovery of all the costs and enforcement of the order,” explains Gioventu, adding what’s happened at 777 Richards has also been happening elsewhere. “It could take quite some time before you actually obtain an order to evict an owner.”

Gioventu says enforcing bylaws is a way to deal with owners who are flouting the rules, but it comes down to reporting.

“If the strata really is at risk where an individual is conducting activities that are contrary to local bylaws or municipal laws, then the strata corporation probably should be talking to a lawyer about seeking a court order against the owner,” he adds.

The man arrested by police on Sunday was accused of running several parties in recent months, despite orders against gatherings due to the pandemic. In the latest instance, the 42-year-old and 77 guests were ticketed for attending a non-compliant event — contrary to the Emergency Program Act.

The penthouse parties were well-appointed, complete with tables, menus, and cash tills. One event last month even had someone who appeared to be acting as a doorman.

Lawyer Michael Shapray echoes the difficulties in trying to remove a property owner.

“It’s not a simple situation. ‘Oh, he’s a nuisance, we can get rid of him immediately. I don’t see that being the case at all,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Shapray says the strata may want to look at its own rules and bylaws to see if anything can be done to deal with the problem owner internally. However, he notes kicking an owner out of a building isn’t something that can be done easily.

“There are lots of protections in place and there is process that would have to be gone through and he could fight those proceedings as well,” the Vancouver lawyer explains.

“As an owner, he has rights of ownership. They’re going to have to carefully look at the strata rules and bylaws and make determinations,” Shapray adds.

Concerns about resident health, safety

Gioventu says situations like these raise concerns for the residents and occupants of a building potentially affected when someone holds a party against COVID-19 orders.

“Because all of these people, who are basically invading their space, are not practicing safe movement in the building. People are not wearing masks in these gatherings, they’re using the elevators, and everyone else in this building is placed at risk, which is really unfair,” Gioventu explains.

He notes it’s also important for stratas to have clear communication with owners and let them know who to call when violations occur.

Being proactive is one option, he says.

“Pay attention to hours in the evening when people are moving in and out, and if there are big numbers, try and find out what’s going on. Contact the police right away. Don’t let this go because it’s not affecting you — it will affect you and it will affect everyone,” Gioventu says.