North Vancouver hostel owner found in contempt of court

Emily Yu, the Central Lonsdale woman who ran a hostel out of her three-bedroom townhouse, has been found in contempt of court and fined.

The strata council at The Beeches townhouse complex on West 13th Street in the City of North Vancouver took Yu to the Civil Resolution Tribunal in 2017 for violating their bylaw that prohibits short-term rentals. The tribunal ordered Yu to stop immediately.

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Yu appealed the original ruling, arguing that her short-term rentals should be grandfathered in because she had been running the hostel for years before her strata banned short-term rentals. That appeal was dismissed in May.

But Yu continued accepting guests in the home in the year since the original tribunal ruling, the strata argued when applying to have Yu found in contempt.

Evidence presented at court on Wednesday included ads Yu posted online and reviews from guests who’d stayed in the townhouse, affidavits from residents who kept a log of tourists coming and going from the townhouse, comments Yu made to the media, and Yu’s own affidavit in which she admits she occasionally took in short-term renters even after being ordered not to.

“Miss Yu’s activity has been enormously disruptive for the neighbours. She has been, in my submission, disrespectful to her neighbours for the purpose of her financial gain,” said the strata’s lawyer Stephen Hamilton. “To have 10, 15, 20 people staying in a small townhouse in the community is just simply unacceptable. She did all of this in the face of the demands and cease and desist letters from the City of North Vancouver and demands from her own strata community through her lawyer.”

And in her defence, Yu argued she only turned to short-term rentals out of financial desperation.

But Justice Barry Davies sided with the strata.

“Those are not defences to the order. They are not defences to an application of contempt. They are excuses but they are not answers,” he said. “I am very concerned about the continuing nature of this contempt. This is a matter, which has been ongoing for many months and Miss Yu has been obdurate in her defiance of the court order.”

Davies ordered Yu to pay an additional $4,000 in fines to her strata for continued violation of their bylaws as well as all of the legal bills the strata incurred in their fight to have the original ruling enforced.

When it came to punishment for violating an order of the court, however, Davies opted to put off sentencing for four months. Yu promised she would comply with the court order immediately. If Yu reneges on that promise between now and her sentencing, Davies warned the punishment could be much harsher.

“I am of the view that actions must speak louder than words,” he said. “That penalty may not be limited to a fine that was sought by the applicant in this case. It is the court whose process is being ignored. The court will determine the appropriate penalty.”

When Yu protested and asked where she would be able to find the money to pay the $4,000 in new strata fines, Davies shut her down quickly.

“That’s up to you ma’am. I’ve made my order. It’s over,” he said.

Outside the court, residents of the Beeches hugged in celebration.

“It’s quite a relief that someone who is completely abusing the laws of this country has been dealt with. Strata bylaws are for the good of everybody and you just can’t ignore them because you choose to,” said Maria Shawcross.

But because of Yu’s history, the rest of the complex residents will be watching her “very closely,” Shawcross said.

“The best case that I can think of is that Miss Yu accepts she’s not the sort of person who should be living in a strata and move to a house location where she has more control of her life,” she said.

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