How far would you go to win back $50? A B.C. couple launched a court battle to recoup a fine they were given by the strata at their Burnaby apartment building. Their crime? Last April, a neighbour complained that they had been loudly “banging pots and pans” late at night. We're nearly a year in and a B.C. tribunal has issued a judgement in their case.

Despite initially paying the $50 penalty, Shih Ting Hsu and Ching-Yi Hsu decided to take their case to the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal.

They denied being “noisy” and were seeking an order for the strata “to stop falsely accusing them of making noise,” according to a judgement that was published last Friday, February 28. 

Spoiler alert: they lost.

The dispute goes back nearly a year to 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, when the strata’s property manager received an emailed complaint about “excessive noise.”

The complainant, the owner of a different apartment who has not been named, claimed they were hearing “pots and pans banging and footsteps, as if someone were walking in heels.”

They added, according to the judgement, that the sounds had been going on “for a few weeks now” and lasted until midnight.

As part of its evidence to the court, the strata provided a video showing the apartment’s door with the noise in the background.

The judgement, by tribunal member David Jiang, said, “I find the audio sounds like pots or pans occasionally hitting each other and the noise appears to come from the owners’ strata lot.”

Making their appeal, the couple argued there “must be scientific instruments involved in there is to be proof of excessive noise.”

The judge disagreed.

He ruled that they had been making excessive noise beyond 10 p.m., in breach of bylaws.

The couple also said they have a “quiet lifestyle” and that Ching-Yi Hsu was unable to engage in “noisy activity” because a May 2018 car accident led to her being prescribed acupuncture for neck and back pain.

They also argued that their building has “noise transmission problems,” and suggested the noise may have come from a different source.

But the judge was unmoved by their evidence and noted that complaints had previously been made against the pair.

They were fined $50 – below the maximum allowable fine of $200 – on Wednesday, May 8.

The judge dismissed the claim for reimbursement and declined to make an order to stop the strata from “falsely accusing the owners of making excessive noise.”

The couple were formally in dispute with Strata Plan BCS4311, which owns apartments on Douglas Road in Burnaby, a city that was recently named as one of the most walkable cities in Canada.

Like nearby Vancouver, it was also recently named as one of the most expensive in the country. 

Last year it was named as the third most expensive Canadian city in which to rent after Toronto and Vancouver. 

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