Central Saanich woman awarded $110,000 after neighbour builds house blocking her views
FILE PHOTO: An ocean view in Central Saanich. (URBC.COM/TRAVEL BC)
A dispute that generated a great deal of tension and ill will has ended with a judge awarding a Vancouver Island woman close to $110,000 in damages after her neighbours built a home that obstructed her views.
Court heard that Li Zhang bought her home in Central Saanich in December 2013 after finding the views to be beautiful, especially the ocean and mountains.
The property across the street had nothing built on it. However, in 2015 Ben and Erin Davies bought that lot and built a home on it. Ben Davies is the grandson of the couple who originally owned both strata lots.
After discovering that she no longer had unobstructed views to the east and that on sunny days the glare of the sun reflected off the metal roof of the new home into rooms at the front of her home, Zhang filed a lawsuit.
She claimed that the couple had breached a binding legal obligation known as a restrictive covenant that provided that no house could be constructed on the property purchased by the Davies without her prior written approval of the plans and specifications.
The Davies argued that her claim should be rejected and that the restrictive covenant, which was registered at the land title office, was void and unenforceable.
Court heard that before construction, Ben Davies took the plans to Zhang, who came to Canada from China and is a permanent resident, and tried to explain what the new house would look like. Due to a language barrier, communication was difficult.
He testified that he asked Zhang to sign off on the plans, but Zhang was concerned about the height of the house and wanted to take the plans to a designer for review and advice.
By March, 2015, the Davies received approval of the plans and specifications for their house from the owners of two other strata lots in the development, but not from Zhang. They went ahead with construction anyway.
Zhang filed her lawsuit on June 2, 2015 and a few days after the action was filed, Ben Davies approached Zhang twice and tried to get her written approval for the plans.
"However, Ms. Zhang felt very uncomfortable with Mr. Davies coming over to her house," said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elaine Adair in her ruling on the case.
"After the second visit, she erected a large sign essentially telling him to stay away and to contact her lawyers. The police were also called."
After the house was built, Zhang found that in addition to her views being blocked, on sunny days the glare of the sun off the metal roof meant she had to abandon altogether the use of a master bedroom on the second floor of her house.
She claimed the glare made her feel dizzy and impaired her vision and that she had sought medical advice.
In her ruling, the judge found that the purpose of the covenant was to preserve the views and that there was a practical benefit, namely in terms of the views and the real estate value.
She concluded that the covenant was valid and enforceable and that the Davies' house was in breach of it. The judge awarded Zhang $102,000 for the breach of the covenant and another $7,500 for the nuisance caused by the glare of the sun, for a total of $109,500.