A woman’s home may be her castle, but British Columbia’s Appeal Court says she still must play nice with the neighbours.
The province’s highest court has upheld a rare judgment that ordered a Vancouver-area woman to sell her condo after years of complaints and unpaid strata fines.
The B.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this year that ordered Rose Jordison to sell her suite in a Surrey strata development following an avalanche of complaints about the behaviour of the woman’s son, Jordy.
Jordison appealed, arguing the court did not have the power to interfere with her property rights.
But the Appeal Court issued a unanimous decision on Tuesday that said provincial legislation permits a court-ordered sale in such extreme cases.
“The competing private property interest ... must, in my opinion, yield to the rights and duties of the collective as embodied in the [strata] bylaws and enforceable by court order,” Justice Ian Donald wrote for the three-judge panel.
“The old adage ‘a man’s home is his castle’ is subordinated by the exigencies of modern living in a condominium setting.”
The case is believed to be the first in B.C. in which a court has ordered the sale of a condo due to neighbour complaints.
The Jordisons moved into the strata complex in mid-2006, and by the following year they had racked up more than two dozen complaints, mostly related to noise.
Over the next several years, residents continued to lodge complaints about Jordison’s son, who they claimed loudly stomped around the family’s unit and harassed other residents by screaming obscenities, making rude gestures and spitting at them.
Jordison has suggested her son’s behaviour is related to autism, though the court hasn’t heard any medical evidence to support that. She also filed a human rights complaint, but withdrew it after the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal requested medical documentation.
Her lawyer, John Zeljkovich, declined to comment after the decision was released Tuesday.
This week’s Appeal Court decision follows more than a year of tangled legal proceedings that saw the B.C. Supreme Court order a sale last year, only to have the Appeal Court overturn that first order and instead leave the Jordisons under an injunction to behave.
Earlier this year, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the Jordisons had breached that injunction due to “continuing harassment.” The lower court judge concluded the only reasonable solution was to order the Jordisons to move.
The Appeal Court agreed.
“The appellants have repudiated the co-operative foundation of strata living and their intolerable behaviour has brought about the forced sale,” Donald wrote in the Appeal Court’s decision.
“There was ample evidence before the judge that only a sale would resolve the problem.”
While the case is believed to be the first of its kind in B.C., there has been a handful of similar cases elsewhere in Canada, particularly in Ontario.
In 2010, an Ontario judge ordered a Toronto woman to sell her condo after years of complaints about verbal and physical abuse. Neighbours accused the woman of assault, shouting racist and homophobic slurs, and in one instance cutting the TV cable service of one resident.
In a less serious case, the B.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling last year that ordered a condo owner in downtown Vancouver to stop using his hot tub after 11 p.m. due to noise complaints.
Legal experts have predicted more neighbour disputes could end up in court as the proportion of Canadians living in the small confines of condos increases.
Currently, one in eight Canadian households lives in a condo, either as an owner or a renter, according to Statistics Canada, condos representing a larger share of new housing starts compared with a decade ago.
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