NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - What started as a parking spot dispute devolved into such heavy legal gridlock that a judge has ordered a B.C. couple to vacate their condominium and deal with Mounties if they refuse to let the sale go ahead.
A "very unusual penalty" was ordered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Grauer who found the New Westminister woman who owns the property in contempt of court for a tangle of expensive legal actions that cost the strata complex thousands of dollars.
"This case is not normal," wrote Grauer in his judgment posted online Tuesday, noting a person's property rights are usually irrelevant as penalty in a contempt of court scenario.
"I conclude that a forced sale is the only appropriate and meaningful sanction..."
The conflict began in 2006, when Huei-Chi Yang Bea and her husband began disobeying a new parking bylaw that changed common parking at the complex into assigned spaces.
The couple was repeatedly fined, but in May 2008 they filed the first of a series of lawsuits and appeals that were dismissed with costs awarded to the complex owners.
Six years into the dispute, the owners stated in an April court hearing, the Beas had cost them more than $173,000 in legal fees, disbursements and taxes.
Costs awarded against the couple were $53,000 and went unpaid.
The Beas represented themselves.
The strata argued that unless unusual steps were taken there would be "further litigation, appeals, applications, and expense, expense and more expense.
"The owners cannot understand how it is that one recalcitrant couple can abuse the court system with such impunity, while the owners continue to bleed financially," the judgment said.
Grauer called the situation an "unremitting pattern of abuse."
He said the proceedings occupied countless court hours, frustrated dozens of judges, severely tested the patience of registry staff, and put the owners to great expense.
"The time to end their abuse of the court’s process is now," he wrote, before awarding the penalty.
Grauer ordered the couple to vacate the condominium by June 15, allowing the strata to sell the unit and granting permission for RCMP to assist if the couple interferes.
The judgment gives the strata seven days pay the couple the net proceeds from the unit's sale — after deduction of all costs, outstanding mortgage debt and judgments and other charges registered against the property.