In a default judgment, a B.C. Supreme Court Justice has ordered a Burnaby condo owner to stop alleged "prostitution related" activity, after one neighbour recorded a heated fight in the hallway and saw streams of men being let into the building in the early hours of the morning.
The condo owners complained after hearing what sounded like violent fights in the hallways — and in one case a "hysterical" young woman crying, saying "I can't do this anymore," according to their affidavits.
They filed a civil lawsuit alleging that their neighbour was renting space to prostitutes so they could entertain clients. At first, they allege the owner said it was a tattoo business, denying all claims.
But the owners of Timberlea Birch apartments didn't back down, alleging that condo-owner Christopher Nino Diopita is jeopardizing their safety and breaking strata bylaws that prohibit use of the unit for commercial or business operations.
"The neighbours that are living close by have been afraid," said Stephen Hamilton, lawyer for the condo owners in the Burnaby tower.
"There have been strange men coming in and out of the unit, you can imagine with the activity that is taking place there, there is drug activity, there is partying, there has been violent activity at times and police have come to the unit time and time again," said Hamilton.
When calls to the RCMP and threats of $8,000 in bylaw fines went nowhere, the residents went to court.
On Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Justin McEwan ordered a stop to any use of the unit for commercial or business purposes, including prostitution-related activities, to restrain from causing or allowing unreasonable noise, including yelling, screaming or playing loud music and to pay the cost of the strata's court proceedings.
'It happens more than we think'
It's not the first situation like this in the province, according to Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners Association of B.C.
"My suspicion is it happens more than we think, because we get a number of discreet phone calls about activities going on in buildings," he said.
But he said it's rare that such allegations end up in court, as most owners fear complaining will put them at risk or drive down the price of their home.
"The tragedy is, is that it has to be dealt with. Because it also goes directly to the personal safety of our people who live in our buildings," he said.
In this case, the lawyer said residents went to great lengths to prove the alleged activities.
Affidavits submitted to the court show neighbours taking meticulous notes about the comings and goings of Unit 502, Diopita's suite.
One neighbour pretended to be seeking out escort services in order to confirm the location.
The neighbour also pulled photographs from real estate listings to compare to online escort advertisements in the area, then submitted images that showed similar pillars and bedding, to court.
In one account, the resident said the unit was rented for use by young women, with one incident involving a teen who appeared no older than 15.
One evening, the neighbour alleges he heard what were believed to be "sounds of physical violence and someone choking from inside Unit 502."
Court documents claim that RCMP officers showed up and removed the girl from the suite.
If Diopita fails to comply with the court orders, the strata will seek an order to have him sell the unit and remove him permanently from the building.
Diopita could not be reached for comment and has not yet filed a response to the civil claim.