A New Westminster strata has been ordered to pay back a $200 fine after failing to prove that eight planters is an “unreasonable” number of planters for a strata lot owner to place in a common area.
Thomas and Ielyzaveta Harris, who own a townhouse in Brickstone Walk on Royal Avenue, applied to the Civil Resolution Tribunal for an order forcing the strata to pay back the fine, according to a CRT ruling Wednesday.
The couple argued the strata had misinterpreted the strata’s bylaws and incorrectly fined them for placing planters on the common property patio area outside their unit.
According to photos submitted as evidence, the Harrises had placed eight planters, according to the ruling.
The strata said the fine was properly imposed and the Harrises are not permitted “unfettered use of the (common property) area” but may use it in accordance with the restrictions set out in the bylaws.
But the bylaws only state that free-standing, self-contained planter boxes and a “reasonable” number of plants and flowers are allowed on patios and other common property.
Because the bylaw is vague and doesn’t set a specific limit on the planters owners may place in common areas, tribunal member Nav Shukla said she had to interpret the bylaw in the context of other bylaws – including one that says residents must not hinder or restrict sidewalks, entrances, exits, halls, passageways, stairways and other parts of the common property.
Based on the photo evidence, Shukla concluded the eight planters were reasonable and didn’t appear to be a hindrance for others or take up space in front of other strata lots.
“I find the strata has failed to establish that the Harrises’ eight planters are not reasonable,” she wrote.
The strata said it had provided the Harrises with specific guidelines in December 2021 about planters in common areas, but Shukla noted it had only done so after fining the couple.
She ordered the strata to reverse the $200 fine and reimburse the Harrises $112.50 for half their tribunal fees.
The CRT is an online, quasi-judicial tribunal that has jurisdiction over most small-claims disputes under $5,000 in B.C.