A Vancouver layer fined a couple for violating occupancy restrictions after having two children.
Christina James and Matt Rowland lived in the Fairview Village complex, but shortly after the birth of their first child, the strata council notified the couple that they were violating their occupancy bylaw and began charging fines for the violation, according to a ruling of the Civil Resolution Tribunal of BC. .
The family eventually moved into a rented apartment and filed a complaint with the court, alleging family status discrimination under the BC Human Rights Code.
Fairview Village denied discriminating against the two individuals and requested dismissal of the complaint, court member Robin Dean said in a Dec. 1 ruling.
Dean rejected the strata's request to dismiss the case.
The couple had a son on August 5, 2017. Twelve days later, the couple received a letter from the strata council saying they were in breach of the bylaw and gave them 12 months to comply.
The couple said in a statement that they accepted the strata council's notice as meaning they would be required to vacate the unit within 12 months. They said the only financially viable option for them was to sell or rent the unit.
“They couldn’t afford to leave the unit and leave it empty,” Dean said.
On December 31, 2018, the strata officer sent another letter to the couple about the alleged violation, saying they would be fined $50 from January 1, 2019 if the violation continued.
The couple had a second child on June 15, 2019. Three weeks later, the agent sent another letter which was followed a day later by a strata council meeting where they discussed the situation.
The board agreed “after considerable discussion” for the agent to ask the couple to respond to the board about how they intend to comply with the strata corporation bylaws.
On Aug. 27, the board met again and agreed to a $200 fine for each violation of the bylaw. Two weeks later, the couple received another notice asking when they would be in compliance.
“The complainants responded on September 13, 2019 that they were close to obtaining a rental property and requested that the fines be suspended,” Dean said.
In November of that year, they filed their complaint with the court asking for an order that the strata cease and desist; that puts an end to alleged human rights violations; that provides fine compensation; and pay compensation for damage to dignity, feelings and self-respect.
James and Rowland moved with their children into a rental home in December 2019 and rented out their unit in Fairview Village. In March 2021, they sold the unit after the strata filed a motion to dismiss the court case.
But on Dean's refusal to dismiss the case, he said the situation had not been resolved and that the strata's reversal of the fines “falls short of taking reasonable and effective steps to remedy the discrimination.”
The court member said “our province is facing a housing crisis against the backdrop of many of these maximum occupancy policies.”
He added: “A hearing into this complaint will help both the social strata and their owners navigate this crisis by highlighting the human rights considerations that arise in circumstances like these.”
Dean said pursuing the complaint would be in line with the public purposes of the Provincial Human Rights Code.