Belching and jackhammering 'bad neighbour' earns rebuke from B.C. judge
Campbell River man ordered to pay $16,801 for damaging retaining wall and taunting neighbours
He belched, he farted and he jackhammered his way into the nightmares of the couple next door.
Now, a B.C. provincial court judge says a Campbell River man must pay the price for being a "bad neighbour."
In a ruling intended as a warning to warring homeowners everywhere, Judge Catherine Crockett ordered Reno Pellegrin this week to pay John and Sherri Wheeldon $16,801 for the damage he did to the concrete retaining wall separating their properties and the years of lewd insults and petty nuisances he hurled across the line between them.
"People need to be discouraged from similar 'bad neighbour' type behaviour," Crockett wrote in her decision.
"[Pellegrin], and others, need to be deterred from similar conduct in the future."
'A nightmare with my eyes wide open'
John Wheeldon is the first to admit that the wall he built to shore up a sports court in 2008 inadvertently strayed by centimetres across Pellegrin's side of the property line.
But he calls Crockett's award a "drop in the bucket" when measured against the emotional trauma and financial burden he and his wife have suffered in relation to the property they set out to turn into a "dream home."
"Money doesn't replace six years for the way this guy's carried on," he told CBC.
"I see a nightmare with my eyes wide open."
The error was the result of a miscalculation and concrete spread on neighbouring one-third acre lots. The incursion is at most 19 centimetres. Crockett noted that Pellegrin actually said the wall was to his benefit, as it reinforced his land in a grassy spot far from his house "not used for any particular purpose."
The Wheeldons and Pellegrins once had cordial relations, but that ended in 2014 when Pellegrin dumped nearly 10 kilograms of dog feces on what he believed to be his side of the property line.
"In fact, it was not," wrote Crockett.
The Wheeldons called animal control, and Pellegrin called the city to complain that a green mesh fence atop the wall was over height.
Then Wheeldon decided to build a fence at another point on the property line, and Pellegrin ripped out his lines and stakes. Twice.
'Merry, merry Xmas'
Dressed in orange coveralls and a hard hat, Pellegrin took a jackhammer to the retaining wall on the morning of Dec. 15, 2015. A police officer showed up but left upset, because Pellegrin started the machine in close proximity and she said she had had a concussion.
According to the judgment, Wheeldon's son and a friend tried to take down the mesh fence as Pellegrin continued to work away at the concrete, laughing like Santa Claus and saying "hope you and yours have a merry, merry Xmas."
Pellegrin filed a claim for assault and trespass and the Wheeldons counterclaimed for trespass, nuisance and damage to their wall.
In assessing both sets of claims, the judge found many of the allegations fell outside the two-year limitation period. She also concluded that Wheeldon had acted in self-defence by picking up a rock as he filmed Pellegrin while standing on the retaining wall as his neighbour advanced on him with a weed-eater.
There are ways for neighbours to deal with territorial disputes in a civilized manner, either by changing the property line through the Property Law Act, getting an easement or seeking an injunction through the B.C. Supreme Court.
According to the judgment, Wheeldon had proposed the two men reach a solution that would have involved his agreeing to overlook another retaining wall enclosing Pellegrin's front yard, which sits entirely on Wheeldon's side of the divide.
But it was not to be.
Crockett said the rules as far as jackhammering were clear.
"Self-help remedies for a trespass or nuisance do not extend to destroying another person's property," she said. "Particularly when there is no urgency to the situation, nor harm to the plaintiff."
$2 plus interest
In addition to money for damaging the wall, the judge also awarded the Wheeldons $2,500 compensation for a litany of minor and major trespasses and nuisances Pellegrin aimed at them: blowing snow on their property, directing yard debris on their sports yard and painting the word "coward" on a wheelbarrow in view of their property.
"One gesture Mr. Pellegrin made repeatedly was poking his tongue in his cheek to simulate oral sex," Crockett wrote.
"Mrs. Wheeldon testified that Mr. Pellegrin will also grab his crotch, put his hand into the crack of his buttocks, and belch and fart as he passes her when she is outside on her property."
Wheeldon estimates that he's spent as much as $85,000 on the case, which he says took up 720 hours of court time. He feels the matter never should have made it before a judge.
And that's to say nothing of police and city resources.
"This case should never have gone forward," he said. "It's a vexatious case."
Pellegrin did not return a call this week.
The judgment was not a complete loss for him. Crockett awarded him $2 dollars — $1 for the times Wheeldon had trespassed on his property and $1 for the ongoing trespass of the retaining wall.
That award also comes with interest.