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Judge finalizes court-ordered sale of North Van's infamous 'hostel' townhouse

After years of legal disputes, saga of North Van's illegal backpacker's hostel and its former owner Emily Yu coming to a close

Emily Yu’s former hostel townhouse has now been sold.

The three-bedroom unit at 12-230 West 13th St., which Yu actively marketed as a backpacker’s hostel and welcomed in more than a dozen guests some nights, was sold in a Vancouver courtroom Thursday afternoon, concluding a legal battle that stretches back to 2017.

Yu’s neighbours described the experience as a “nightmare” with strangers coming and going at all hours, security concerns, loud parties and disturbances in the yard. The province’s Civil Resolution Tribunal ordered Yu to stop operating the hostel in September 2017. Yu, however, maintained the strata’s bylaw against short-term rentals did not apply to her because her business predated the strata’s bylaw. She appealed the tribunal ruling in court and lost in 2018. She was later found in contempt of court for continuing to accept overnight guests and fined $5,000.

Eventually, Yu did stop operating the hostel, but when she failed to pay back the $52,100 in legal bills her strata had spent trying to shut her down, as the court had ordered her to do, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies ordered the unit to be sold by the strata. Yu opposed the order, claiming she had been the victim of identity theft, which Davies rejected.

Yu protested right up to the moment Davies made the sale final Thursday, alleging his decisions were based on mistaken information, but he was having none of it.

“Ms. Yu, I have been hearing stories from you for a number of years now. You have defied the court process. You have defied the Civil Resolution Tribunal. You have made life for your neighbours unbearably miserable. You have put people to incredible expense. You have been your own worst enemy in this matter,” he said.

Davies said there was no question he would approve the sale – it was only a matter of which one of the two competing offers he would accept. Ultimately, he decided on a private buyer’s offer of $800,000 with no subjects, beating out a construction firm’s bid of $776,000.

The strata’s legal costs will be paid out of that sale. The province also registered two liens against the property for more than $95,000. Yu will receive whatever remains after the mortgage is paid off.

An affidavit sworn in court shows the home was left a fixer-upper, including messages scrawled on the walls and mirrors claiming Yu was a victim of identity fraud and that the house was not for sale.

Also at issue before the court Thursday was the strata’s request that Yu be ordered to pay further special costs due to her “outrageous conduct during the sale process,” said strata lawyer Stephen Hamilton.

After Davies ordered the sale of the home last year, Yu refused to allow court bailiffs or real estate agents in to inspect the property, the court heard. The first time they visited, they had to cut through a chain that had been installed on the front door. On two other occasions, they had to remove padlocks that had been placed on the gate.

“Ms. Yu would not allow anyone to enter her property and she shoved me backwards through the door. The RCMP officer observed Ms. Yu’s behaviour and subsequently arrested her,” court bailiff Robert Lynch stated in his affidavit.

Yu spent 10 days in the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge before being released on bail, Hamilton said. She is due back in criminal court in March on one charge of disobeying a court order.

Because of her continued obstruction, she was found in contempt of court again in October last year and fined another $2,500, which she still has not paid, Hamilton said.

At first, Davies said he was not prepared to grant the order for special costs despite Yu’s “extraordinarily difficult” behaviour. But after listening to arguments from Hamilton, he agreed.

 Yu’s conduct was “well beyond” the level that would merit awarding special costs.

Hamilton said he estimates that will amount to another $30,000 to $40,000.

After the decision, Hamilton expressed relief on behalf of Yu’s neighbours.

“It means they can put three years and eleven months of frustrations behind them,” he said. “They’ve had to deal with her. It has been frustrating.”