Thousands of dollars just went up in smoke for a B.C. man who refused to pay an $800 fine for smoking in his strata.
James Graham has been ordered to pay $13,336 in costs, including the original $800 fine, by the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal.
It all started when strata owners claimed Graham had been smoking cannabis, cigarettes or both in his unit — a contravention of strata bylaws. An $800 fine was imposed against Graham, but he denied that he had been smoking and refused to pay. The owners claim he then continued to smoke in his unit.
Civil Resolution Tribunal member Nav Shukla noted that the strata manager had received over 20 emails from complainants alleging smoke and odours from Graham’s unit were negatively impacting the use and enjoyment of the complainant’s property. Emails reported smell escaping the unit over 260 times between January 21, 2021 and March 28, 2022.
“The complaint emails note the smell emanated from the drain openings in the upstairs bathroom, plug outlets on the walls adjoining SL21, in the master bedroom, upstairs bedroom (which is also the complainant’s home office), and the kitchen cupboards,” Shukla wrote. “The complaint emails also detail negative health impacts on the complainant, such as extreme nausea and headaches, as well as aggravating the complainant’s allergies.”
A strata council later attended the complainants unit and said they noticed a “heavy smell of marijuana” coming through the electrical outlets that was allegedly so strong they could smell it while wearing masks even with the strong air freshener the complainant was using.
Despite his claims to the contrary, emails between Graham and the strata’s legal council found that he was smoking in his unit.
Graham emailed the council a note from a doctor saying he needed cannabis to treat depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal disorder and pain. He also claimed to have purchased an air purifier to stop odours from lingering. The strata responded saying that if Graham wanted to continue smoking in his unit, he would need to ensure there was an airtight barrier between his unit and his neighbours.
Graham responded, saying he would not be undertaking the repairs and would be smoking outside of strata property.
“Read together, I find that Mr. Graham’s February 10, 2021, March 11, 2021, and April 1, 2021 emails are acknowledgments that he was smoking in SL21,” Shukla wrote.
Shukla determined that the imposition of the fines against Graham was valid, complied with the principles of procedural fairness and provided Graham with an opportunity to be heard and address the allegations against him prior to imposing the fines.
Graham was ordered to pay the original $800 fine. On top of that, a strata bylaw specifically stated that the strata was entitled to recover legal costs incurred from an owner while enforcing the Strata Property Agreement.
Based on invoices provided to the tribunal, Graham was ordered to pay $4,956 in pre-CRT legal expenses, $7,320 for CRT legal expenses, $35 in prejudgement interest and $225 in CRT fees on top of the original $800 fine for a total of $13,336.
Graham has 30 days to pay the costs.