Smoker-rights battle heads to B.C. Supreme Court

A bitter battle between a Langley condo board and a man who says he should have the right to smoke in his own condo is headed to B.C. Supreme Court. Lawyers say they're hoping for direction on one of the most hotly contested points in strata law.

Strata claims smoker is breaking their rules; smoker claims strata is discriminating against him

A B.C. Supreme Court battle pits the rights of a strata council against those of a man who says he should have the right to smoke in his own condo.

They claim he's infringing on their rights, he claims they're violating his.

Now, a bitter battle between a Langley condo board and Paul Aradi, a man who says he should have the right to smoke in his own condo, is headed to B.C. Supreme Court.

The condo's board, or strata council, filed a petition against the 70-year-old army veteran this week. They want a judge to order Aradi to stop smoking in his suite. 

Aradi, who bought the condo before the strata banned smoking, claims he's addicted to cigarettes,

"I just cannot stop," he said in a telephone interview. "They want to get rid of me."

'The issue of the day'

The dispute falls into a grey area where lawyers say some direction from higher courts is needed: How do you balance the rights of the majority strata with those of individual owners? 

Paul Mendes, a strata property lawyer who is not involved in the case, says an increasing number of councils want to ban smoking, but most disputes get settled before they hit the courts.

"It is certainly the issue of the day right now in stratas," he said. "Strata lawyers, stratas and owners need some guidance on this very important issue."

Aradi says he smokes about a pack and half of cigarettes every two days.

He bought his second-floor unit in the 47-unit condominium building 10 years ago. The strata first passed its bylaw prohibiting smoking in suites and common areas in March 2009.

According to the petition, Aradi has been smoking in his unit for at least the past two years. The council has levied $2,300 worth of fines against him, which they claim he has not paid.

"[Aradi] is causing and creating a significant nuisance and disturbance for the strata owners," the petition reads.

The petition cites the dangers of second-hand smoke as well as fears that Aradi might fall asleep while smoking and cause a fire. The strata owners claim the smell of stale cigarette smoke diminishes their enjoyment of the building and might lower the value of their condos.

Bigger issues

The strata has also taken Aradi to provincial court in a bid to try to make him pay fines arising from 19 separate smoking infractions.

His lawyer, Paul Roxburgh, argues that bigger issues are at play.

"It's your home," he says. "And what foundation do they have to say it's your home and we're going to forbid you smoking in it?

"I don't see the difference between doing that and forbidding people from drinking alcohol, forbidding people from cooking kinds of food. This is a problem inherent in the strata property system and it's starting to bubble up."

Aradi says he was wounded while serving as a peacekeeper in Cyprus. 

Aradi has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which which will hold hearing on the matter. He claims to have a physical disability and a mental disability in the form of an addiction to nicotine.

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