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Judge rules couple ‘can’t fight city hall’

A couple who refused to pay rent on a Canoe beachfront cabin for three years will now have to cough up the costs to the City of Salmon Arm and will be banned from the property beginning in May 2014.

Supreme Court Justice Hope Hyslop ruled in favour of the city in a legal dispute which began in 2010 over a leased lot, which is one in a series of city-owned recreational lots along Shuswap Lake in Canoe.

“You can’t fight city hall,” commented Hyslop in her written judgement. “Sadly the defendants Jennifer A. Stockwood and Herbert H. Stockwood, over the last three years have come to realize this in their disagreement with the City of Salmon Arm.”

The dispute began prior to the expiry of the property lease in 2010, when the city informed the Stockwoods, along with 27 other renters of the Canoe Beach lots, that it would be altering the terms of the lease to increase rental rates and reduce the length of lease from five years to three.

It was also noted in the lawsuit that the property has been designated in the city’s official community plan as land to be converted into parkland for public use in the future.

Upon expiry of their 2005-2010 lease, the city proposed increasing the Stockwoods’ rent to $4,710 in 2010, $4,945 in 2011, $5,195 in 2012, and $5,455 in 2013, which was based on the property value of the lots. The Stockwoods had paid $1,200 per year between 2001 and 2005.

The couple refused to sign the updated lease arguing the increases were out of line with property values and the property lacked an appropriate legal survey.

Initially other renters of the lots also opposed the new lease deal, but after their appeals to city council were rejected, all the renters except the Stockwoods and one other renter signed the lease agreements.

On Dec. 6, 2010, the city withdrew its offer and demanded the Stockwoods leave the lot—and remove their cabin—by Jan. 31 of 2011.

The Stockwoods, however, ignored the city’s demands and continued to occupy the lot, which still includes a well-maintained two-storey cabin.

The judge ruled that the city is entitled to set the terms of its leases even if those terms differ from previous precedent. She ordered the Stockwoods to pay the city $19,758 plus $17.91 per day until the Stockwoods give up possession of the lot or until they are legally barred from the property on May 31, 2014.

The judge suggests the Stockwoods could attempt to sell the cabin and, should the city be prepared to grant a lease to new owners, the outstanding costs, including rent and taxes would still have to be paid to the city. The judge also notes the Stockwoods could remove the residence, whether by tearing it down or moving it.

 

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