When is a property owner misusing common strata property?
That question is at the heart of a recent Port Coquitlam strata dispute that ended up at the Civil Resolution Tribunal.
The strata of a complex at 34-2436 Wilson Ave., in Port Coquitlam, was ordered to reimburse a $200 fine plus an additional $225 in fees to a condo owner after a hearing in which she pleaded her case.
According to details published online, Andrea Iljev was fined $200 for using a common property electrical outlet to charge a motorcycle battery.
The dispute began on July 28, 2021, when the strata manager sent Iljev a bylaw contravention notice letter on behalf of the strata.
The letter said the strata had received a complaint that a vehicle parked in a parking stall associated with Iljev’s strata lot had been charging an "electric motorcycle" and someone had placed a lock box on an outlet so that no other resident could use it, contrary to strata bylaws.
She was asked to remove the lock box, and stop connecting “the cord” immediately.
Only small amount of electricity used
Iljev denied that she installed the lock box, saying she used a work-around to get to the plug, and she offered to help remove it with the right tools.
Iljev said that while she used a common property outlet to charge a battery on her gas motorcycle, doing so does not contravene the strata’s bylaws.
The strata says it made best efforts to comply with its obligations under the Strata Property Act and its bylaws and said the fine was appropriate in the circumstances and should not be reversed.
However, tribunal member Leah Volkers said the strata waited too long to advise Iljev of its decision to impose a $200 fine — over four months after it sent the original notice of the alleged bylaw contravention and two weeks after it imposed the fine.
What's more, there are no indications on the strata plan or in the parkade prohibiting the use of the plugs.
"The evidence also does not show that the strata had communicated any concerns about owners using common property electrical outlets before July 28, 2021, the date of the strata’s first bylaw contravention notice letter to Ms. Iljev," the decision reads.
"Ms. Iljev does not dispute that she charged a battery using a common property outlet. However, she denies charging an electric motorcycle. She says she has a gas motorcycle, and charges the engine’s battery with a trickle charger occasionally instead of replacing the battery. She says the electrical costs of doing so are minimal."
Matter of principal: strata
In its decision, the tribunal noted that the strata manager only asked Iljev to stop using the common property outlet to charge the battery on her “car” because “it [was] a matter of principle that other owners won’t pay the cost (very small, indeed), for the benefit of another owner."
There was also no evidence to prove Iljev installed the lock box.
"The strata did not explain, and the evidence does not show, that Ms. Iljev’s common property outlet use interfered with any other strata lot owners’ use or enjoyment of common property," Volkers said in her decision.
The strata was ordered to pay Iljev back plus fees she paid for a CRT hearing.
The CRT handles small disputes to keep them out of the courts. Find out more here.