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Live-in companion is family, tribunal rules in B.C. strata dispute

Strata bylaw discriminated against owner on basis of family status, B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal finds
A strata discriminated against an owner in finding a live-in companion was not family, a tribunal says.

A B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled that a woman's live-in companion meets a strata's bylaw definition of "family" and ordered them to stop enforcing the rule.

The strata claimed owner Alison Pennie violated a bylaw allowing a guest to stay for no more than 31 days in a calendar year.

According to Tribunal member Megan Stewart's decision, Pennie had advised the strata that "FB" would be her guest for December 2021 and January 2022. In February 2022, she told the strata "FB" was now living in the unit as her companion.

In February 2022, the strata began fining Pennie $200 monthly and sought $2,400 in unpaid fines. It said it would continue fines until it was confirmed "FB" had moved out.

Stewart said it is undisputed that "FB" did not move out until March 23, 2022, but the strata claimed it was May 28.

Pennie and the strata agreed "FB" does not fall within the strata's definition of "family" under the bylaw.

Pennie argued the bylaw discriminated against her based on her family status because under its definition of "single-family" or "family," she lacks family or spousal status with "FB."

Pennie said an owner without a family is narrowly defined in the bylaw, forcing people "to live alone and in solitude, which is burdensome and disadvantageous to them." She also noted the bylaw withholds from her the benefits of companionship and emotional support available to other owners who live with family.

"I find the owner has identified a relationship with FB in which they were committed to mutually supporting each other and intended to live together with a degree of permanence, and which is essentially a family relationship," Stewart said.

Further, Stewart said, the bylaw adversely affected Pennie as the two were not allowed to live together as others did. The strata had no reasonable and bona fide reason to enforce the bylaw against her, said Stewart.

"I note this order does not cover the owner's living arrangements with any other person, but only her living arrangement with FB," Stewart said.

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