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B.C. couple loses lawsuit over privacy screen installed by neighbour

The couple claimed the screen was a 'spite fence'
Claims by a Vernon couple that a neighbour's privacy screen devalued their Brooks Lane property have been dismissed.

Claims by a Vernon couple that a neighbour's privacy screen devalued their property have been dismissed.

Joel and Samantha Becker claimed the privacy screen resulted in their Okanagan Lake view being “stolen” and demanded close to $300,000 in compensation.

The couple claimed the screen was a “spite fence” but a Civil Resolution Tribunal said "spite fence" is not recognized in Canadian law.

The tribunal also said the privacy screens did not significantly impact the lake view or violate the strata building’s regulations.

The Beckers made several complaints to the strata council asking it to tell the neighbours to take down the screens.

But the strata refused, so the Beckers took the matter to the Civil Resolution Tribunal in an effort to have the tribunal order the strata to enforce its bylaws and have the screens removed.

In a decision handed down Dec. 22, tribunal member Chad McCarthy wrote “the bylaws provide no authority for the strata to remove the privacy screens.”

All of the Beckers claims were dismissed. The couple asked for $180,000 of allegedly lost property value, $50,000 for “hardship due to discrimination and alienation” and $30,000 for what they said was the value of bylaw fines they said should have been issued by the strata council to the neighbour.

McCarthy found the screen did block the view from parts of the Beckers second floor condo, but the lake could be seen from other locations in their home.

The couple claimed the strata of the Brooks Lane building did not enforce applicable regulations designed to preserve residents' lake views.

The tribunal said those regulations referred to cases where views were unreasonably obstructed by trees, shrubs and other living vegetation, not by the privacy screens.

McCarthy ruled the neighbour did not violate any of the 10 bylaws as alleged by the Beckers.

The one-metre square privacy screens were the neighbour’s personal property, not permanent alterations to the strata building, the tribunal said.

McCarthy also found the privacy screens would not have decreased the value of the Beckers condo.

“I find there is insufficient evidence showing that its value has decreased at all, much less as a result of reduced lake views. The Beckers submitted value calculations based on their strata lot having no lake view, which I find is not the case. I find those calculations are speculative and based on faulty assumptions, and are therefore unreliable,” McCarthy ruled.

“Further, I find the Beckers do not adequately explain how it is possible for the strata lot 12 owners to instantly alter strata lot 11’s market value by $180,000 simply by repositioning the approximately one-metre-wide movable privacy screens from behind the existing wall, fence, and glass privacy panels. I dismiss the Beckers’ claim for $180,000 for decreased property value."