A Central Lonsdale townhouse owner has again been ordered by the courts to stop advertising her home as a hostel. But a B.C. Supreme Court judge stopped short of forcing the sale of Emily Yu’s home following allegations she continues to accept overnight guests in violation of court orders.
Yu was found in contempt of court in October for disobeying previous orders of the Civil Resolution Tribunal and Supreme Court, which found she was breaking her strata’s bylaws by bringing upwards of 15 short-term guests per night to her four-bedroom townhouse.
Stephen Hamilton, lawyer for the strata, was in court on Wednesday with affidavits from current residents who say they’ve seen hostel guests continue to leave the property. Yu denies that flatly.
But, Hamilton added, Yu could still be taking bookings via ads that remain online in defiance of the court order.
“As of today, your lordship could pull it up on your smartphone and find it on Trip Advisor,” Hamilton said to the judge.
Hamilton also cited statements Yu made to Global News and an email she’d sent to him indicating she did not accept the court’s rulings.
Beyond having the rest of the ads removed, the strata was seeking an order that Yu list her townhouse for “fair market value.” If it does not sell within three months, conduct of the sale should be handed over to the strata, Hamilton argued.
Yu has already listed her townhouse for sale for $1.1 million, which the strata argues is overpriced by $400,000 to $500,000. Yu argues, however, the price is in fact comparable to similar townhouse sales and listings in the neighbourhood.
Yu and her lawyer, Stewart Elworthy, agreed she must immediately make “reasonable efforts” to cancel any ads that may still exist on a number of websites but, they added, Yu “never signed up for the other alleged postings and had no knowledge of their existence until served with this application.”
Elworthy argued the neighbours’ new affidavits should be given little weight by the court as they may have been motivated by a dislike of Yu or could have been based on misunderstandings.
Elworthy said Yu’s statements to Global News, while incorrect and ill advised, would not justify the “draconian remedy of kicking her out of her home, possibly leaving her destitute.”
He attributed Yu’s mistake to cognitive difficulties stemming from past concussions.
If Yu doesn’t get any acceptable offers for the home by the time her current listing expires in six months, she intends to rent it out long term, Elworthy said.
Justice Barry Davies agreed the evidence offered in the neighbours’ affidavits didn’t meet the threshold that would establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is needed for further contempt findings. And he said it was still too soon to talk about a forced sale.
“There is no question that this court has the power, in certain circumstances, to order the sale of a strata unit where there has been non-compliance with court orders and a poisoned relationship between the strata corporation and a member that has reached such a point that no other remedy other than sale and removal can be effective,” he said, noting several extreme examples in B.C. case law. “This case has not yet reached that level of alienation and cost, but it is well on the way to such a level as has in the past resulted in the sale of an owner’s unit.”
Instead, Davies said he hopes Yu’s promise to remove old advertising will mean no more new short-term guests.
Yu has not yet been sentenced for her contempt of court. Davies deliberately put that off until the spring to give Yu the chance to demonstrate her willingness to comply. Davies said Wednesday he would reconsider the strata’s request for a forced sale before handing down sentencing.
“The best course of action in this case is to again say actions speak louder than words. I want that message to be clearly understood by Ms. Yu,” he said. “There can be no excuse for any continued breaches.”
Outside the courtroom, Yu and her lawyer declined comment.