British Columbia

Strata tries to pin $15K security camera bill on landlord — after catching tenant doing nothing

A Chilliwack, B.C., strata that hired its own security company to try to catch a tenant breaking the law has lost its battle to have that extra security paid for — mainly because the cameras didn't catch the tenant doing anything illegal.

'They failed to prove ... there was a bylaw breach in the first place,' lawyer says

A B.C.-based strata tried to go after a property owner to cover the cost of extra surveillance after their tenant was suspected of illegal activity — but lost. (CBC)

A Chilliwack, B.C., strata that hired its own security company to try to catch a tenant breaking the law has lost its battle to have that extra security paid for.

One of the main reasons it lost? The cameras didn't catch the tenant doing anything illegal.

The Windsor Pines complex strata went to the Civil Resolution Tribunal this year, asking a unit's landlords to put $15,000 toward the cost of surveillance.

Neighbours suspected the tenant was doing something illegal in the home.

The strata lost, largely because security footage from the company only captured the tenant going in and out of the building, letting guests in and holding the front door.

"The hours of the comings and going may give an appearance of something untoward, [but] they do not show … the former tenant … was engaged in any illegal activities," read the ruling, dated Oct. 30.

The Windsor Pines complex in Chilliwack, B.C. (Google Streetview)

Neighbours complain

Neighbours in the building believed the tenant was up to something illegal a number of times leading up to August 2017.

They went to their strata, which hired a third-party security firm.

That security firm gathered footage from August 2017 to March of this year — but nothing other than the tenant coming and going, walking their guests to and from their suite and propping the front door open appeared on the tape.

In February, other owners in the building voted to cover the $18,257.40 cost of the past year's surveillance with the strata's contingency reserve fund.

The strata went to the CRT later in the year, asking the tenant's landlords to pay for $15,000 of that cost.

'You always have to justify it'

Jennifer Neville, who has been a strata property lawyer for 15 years, said the strata didn't succeed for three reasons.

First, it didn't prove the tenants broke any building rules.

"Arguably, they certainly were going to argue that the security camera was necessary for remedying the contravention of the bylaw, but what they failed to prove was that there was a bylaw breach in the first place," said Neville, who didn't work on the case but read a copy of the ruling.

Second, if the strata had proven a breach, it would have had to notify the tenant or their landlord.

Third, the strata also didn't point to a bylaw that would have allowed them to claim the money in its case with the tribunal.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal resolves small claims disputes of $5,000 or less as well as strata property disputes of any amount. (CBC)

Neville said strata corporations can claim money against an owner to cover any repairs or remedies that come from the owner breaking a bylaw, but there are common mistakes made.

"I regularly see this situation where strata corporations are trying to charge a cost and they're probably doing it because they feel in their gut it's the right thing to do, but what they forget is you always have to justify it," she said.

The strata had also asked the owners pay $1,200 in bylaw fines and hire a property management company to help choose tenants in future. The tribunal dismissed both those issues.