02/24/2014 07:10 EST | Updated 02/24/2014 07:59 EST

Yurt Living In Okanagan Requires Permit

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

A family of five who live in a yurt in B.C.'s Okanagan Falls may be forced to move because they don't have the proper building permit.

Chris and Jill Ward, plus their three children, have lived in the heavy-duty tent structure for five years, reported CBC's Radio West.

"In this beautiful valley, real estate is at a premium and it was a really great temporary option for us," Jill Ward told the radio program.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has asked the Wards to obtain a proper building permit, citing potential construction and health and safety deficiencies.

Any structure over 10 square metres requires a building permit, a regional official told Castanet.

Yurts have been used by Mongolia's nomads for centuries. They're growing in popularity across North America among people who use them for camping or art studios. Yurts sell in Canada starting at $8,000.

In 2010, officials noticed the Wards' yurt, which was assembled on a platform on land they don't own. In late 2012, the district noticed a second yurt had been built nearby by other tenants, according to a district report.

The Wards' yurt needs to pass an engineer's test that it's strong enough to support snow, and also that it contains adequate insulation, plumbing and a septic system, said Laura Walton, a district building inspection services supervisor.

The second yurt, which is not being lived in, only requires a building permit.

Last week, the regional board voted to place notice on the title of the two yurts, but will work with their owners to find solutions, said the Oliver Daily News.

The district could move to seek a court injunction to force the yurt owners to bring the structures into compliance.

Jill Ward told CBC it would cost $50,000 to build a foundation and septic field for their yurt, which has a composting toilet.

"We have applied for a permit. It's incomplete. It's a really complicated process when you're talking about a yurt. It's not a common dwelling," Ward said in an interview with host Rebecca Zandbergen.

Ward said the family is considering moving — or building a second yurt to accommodate their kids, who are now aged nine, eight and six.

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