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Richmond man wins 10-year battle to keep shipping containers in parking stalls

Strata had amended bylaws to ban anything other than cars and forcibly removed the containers
A stock image of a shipping container.

A Richmond man’s long battle against strata to keep shipping containers in his parking stalls is finally coming to an end after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of his appeal.

The story began when Gregory Reid, who lived in a “caretaker’s residence” in an industrial park on Shell Road, moved two shipping containers onto his two parking spots back in 2012. He was asked to remove them a year later as the strata claimed he was using the parking stalls contrary to their purpose.

Reid refused.

The strata then amended the bylaws three years later by a three-quarter vote of all strata owners to prohibit storage containers to be placed in any common property or limited common property, such as parking stalls, and ban owners from parking or storing anything other than “a motor vehicle” in their parking stalls.

Reid was asked to remove the containers since they contravened the amended bylaws, and when he refused, the strata removed his containers in 2017 at Reid’s expense.

When Reid went to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) to seek $8,000 in costs and compensation from the strata, arguing that the strata made a mistake in only taking one vote to amend the bylaws. He argued that since his strata lot was residential, as opposed to others in the industrial complex, two votes were required to amend the bylaws — one for owners of residential lots and one for non-residential lots.

He also claimed his containers were “grandfathered” since they were placed before the bylaws were amended.

CRT ruled in favour of the strata and B.C. Supreme Court chambers judge dismissed Reid’s initial appeal, but the Court of Appeal decided it would be in the interests of justice to allow Reid’s appeal.

Parties needed a resolution “without further cost and delay”: judge

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Palbinder Kaur Shergill ruled in favour of Reid last week, deciding that the CRT had made a mistake when determining Reid’s lot was not residential.

“The fact that a single strata lot may be used for secondary residential purposes for a security/operator, in an otherwise entirely industrial building park building, does not make the strata one of mixed residential and non-residential strata lots for the purposes of section,” reads the CRT decision.

Justice Shergill ruled that CRT had focused on the use of the strata lot and “failed to properly consider the evidence before it regarding the design or intention of the unit at the time of inception,” which was being used as Reid’s primary residence.

“While the development as a whole may have been created for commercial or non-residential purposes, it is possible to have one or more units created within the development which were designed or intended to be used primarily as a residence. Such is the case here,” she wrote.

She decided that Reid’s strata lot was residential by nature, which meant that the strata’s bylaw amendment to ban shipping containers was not valid since it only took a vote with non-residential owners.

Justice Shergill also decided that CRT had failed to deal with Reid’s argument that he didn’t violate the amended bylaw as he did not “maintain” the containers. Instead, CRT only dealt with his argument that his situation is grandfathered.

She agreed with the parties that she should decide on the bylaw violation matter “in the interests of justice.”

“This is particularly so, given the amount of money involved in this matter, the amount of time that has transpired since the issues first came to a head, and the need for the parties to have resolution of the issues without further cost and delay,” she wrote.

If the amended bylaws were valid, wrote Justice Shergill, Reid would have been in violation by keeping the containers in his parking stalls after the amendments were introduced.

Reid is set to get his $200 deposit back from the court, but the parties may have to return to court to decide on costs if they can’t agree among themselves.

They will have to consider Reid’s requests that the strata pay damages resulting from the removal of his storage containers and subsequent storage costs, the strata pay to return his containers, and other costs as well as potential property tax savings from his lot being determined as a “residential strata lot.”

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