British Columbia

Vancouver Island townhouse owner loses access to guest suite following sex worker dispute

A Vancouver Island townhouse owner has lost the right to use the building's guest suite for a year after he allegedly permitted a sex worker use it for her business.

The owner said he was not aware of his guest's commercial activities

Station Villa is a 22-unit, mixed use complex in Langford, which is in the Greater Victoria area. (Google Maps)

A Vancouver Island townhouse owner has lost the right to use the building's guest suite for a year after he allegedly permitted a sex worker use it for her business. 

The owner, who is only identified as T.M. in court documents, was one of the original developers of Station Villa, a 22-unit mixed use complex in Langford, B.C., according to court documents.

He owns four commercial strata lots and one residential unit in the building and was the president of the strata council during the peak of the dispute.

In court documents, two owners in the complex say T.M. allowed a sex worker to use the guest suite. They also say the sex worker broke into the storage lockers of strata owners, according to their complaint made to the province's civil resolution tribunal.

There was also evidence of smoking and "potential drug use," according to the complaint brought by owners Paul Masse and Tomas Remington.

Used influence

The online civil resolution tribunal took over hearing strata disputes from the B.C. Supreme Court in 2016.

Owners in the Langford complex dispute say when they tried to make changes to how the guest suite is used, T.M. used his influence and connections to block the changes.

Masse and Remington went to the tribunal, alleging the strata and T.M used the guest suite in a way that contravened the bylaws.

For his part, T.M. said he wasn't aware of his guest's commercial activities and wasn't aware of any complaints.

In a ruling, tribunal member Maureen Abraham found T.M. in violation of the bylaws and found some fault with the strata for not enforcing its bylaws. 

"Strata ownership requires owners to live cooperatively and respectfully with their neighbours: this is done by complying with the rules and bylaws," Abraham wrote.

T.M. lost the use of the guest suite for a year, was ordered to pay any outstanding rental fees, and pay part of the court fees, totalling $112.50.

Treated 'unfairly'

The dispute began when neighbours noticed that T.M. was exclusively using the guest suite throughout 2016 but hadn't paid the applicable fees.

Owners can book the furnished guest suite for their guests for $20 per week for a maximum of 14 days.

According to court documents, T.M. claimed he was being treated unfairly and argued he should be entitled to use the guest suite for extended periods because he owned multiple units.

Eventually, neighbours filed a police report. The property manager advised them to change the rules around accessing the guest suite.

Swaying the vote

But the complainants alleged that some strata council members had a personal or business relationship with T.M., and refused to take action against him.

In an email exchange between a condo owner and a strata council member, the condo owner expressed frustration about T.M.'s guests, whom she referred to as the "undesirables", but said she wouldn't take any punitive measures against him.

On November 23, 2016, during the strata's annual general meeting, the neighbours tried to introduce changes to how the guest suite is used. 

Some of those changes included increasing the guest suite fee, changing the length of time that a guest can stay there and requiring that an owner pay a deposit to secure their booking.

But, T.M., who chaired the meeting as council president, cast 11 of the 12 votes. And the motion to change the guest suite bylaw was defeated.

Roughly seven months later, when several council members resigned, new rules around the guest suite were implemented.

On April 4, 2018, the tribunal ruled in favour of the applicants.