No-rentals rule frustrates White Rock suite owners

Parents challenge strata bylaw after trying to sell Blackwood Street apartment for more than five years.

Melissa Zeelie's Blackwood Street apartment stands empty as she has struggled for more than five years to find a buyer for the one-bedroom suite.

Melissa Zeelie's Blackwood Street apartment stands empty as she has struggled for more than five years to find a buyer for the one-bedroom suite.

A Langley couple who have been trying to sell a White Rock apartment for more than five years are pointing to a strata bylaw that prevents the unit from being rented as the reason the suite has not sold.

Melissa Zeelie and her husband, Riaan, bought the one-bedroom apartment on Blackwood Street in 2009, shortly after moving to Canada from South Africa.

Not long after, the couple learned they were expecting a baby, and – because of a strata bylaw that only allows two people living in a one-bedroom suite – were forced to relocate.

While the building’s bylaws do not allow rentals – except for one strata-owned suite occupied by the building’s caretaker – the Zeelies went to court to apply for an exemption under the grounds of financial hardship.

They were granted the exemption while the apartment was listed for sale, but it expired at the end of last year. The couple has lowered their asking price by close to $40,000 over the five years it has been on the market, and are now hoping to get the minimum amount they need to pay off what’s left of their mortgage.

“It’s standing empty and we’re losing over $1,000 a month,” Zeelie told Peace Arch News this week. “We want to rent or we want to sell. It’s useless just standing empty.”

According to Leah Eastman, from Fraser Campbell Property Management, any changes to the strata bylaw would require a 75 per cent vote in favour by owners at an annual general meeting in order to be implemented.

While Eastman said she did not know the background of the Zeelies’ situation – her company only took over management of the building a few weeks ago – generally speaking, reselling a unit that does not allow rentals has “never been a problem.”

“People who want to purchase in a building would rather there not be rentals,” Eastman said.

However, Zeelie said, any of the prospective buyers they have had are always deterred by the strict strata rules surrounding rentals.

“That’s the first question people ask when they want to make an offer – ‘are rentals allowed?’” Zeelie said. “When they hear they are not, we never see them again.”

Zeelie said she and her husband have a court date set for April 6 when they will seek an extended exemption; if their appeal is unsuccessful, she may petition for a vote at the strata council’s next annual general meeting. She said she knows of at least two other apartments in the building that are currently vacant as the owners attempt to sell them.

Citing “difficulties” between herself and members of the strata council over the years, however, she is not optimistic the rules will be changed in her favour.

“There should be some kind of law against this,” she said. “At this stage, I just want to sell it.”

Peace Arch News

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