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Chiang v Yang, 1999 BCPC 29 – an examination of a court case involving nuisance between neighbors

Updated: Feb 15

Written by: Alfonso Chen and Chris Wong


As people spend significantly more time in their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, they would also interact more with their neighbors, which can frequently lead to either amicable discussions or quarrels. This article examines a court case, Chiang v Yang, 1999 BCPC 29, where a neighborly quarrel involving a neighbor’s daughter playing the piano triggered a chain of events that ultimately resulted in a lawsuit and one of the neighbors being awarded damages for nuisance and decrease to property value.


The Events


The Claimant and the Defendant were neighbors in a condominium. The quarrel started when the Defendant’s daughter started playing the piano for half an hour to an hour daily, but never after 8:00 p.m.


The Claimant provided that the daughter’s piano practice deprived him of use and enjoyment of part of his residence and resultingly sued the Defendant for violation of bylaws, nuisance, and infliction of emotional stress. The Defendant counterclaimed, asserting that the Claimant interfered with her attempted sale of her residence and with her daughter’s piano examinations, and made claims against the Claimant for nuisance, intentional infliction of economic loss, and intentional infliction of mental stress.


Prior to commencing the lawsuit, the Claimant had sought the help of the City of Vancouver (the “City”) in enforcing bylaws of the City but was informed by officials of the City that the piano playing did not violate bylaws after officers inspected the Claimant’s and Defendant’s residence on at least 15 occasions. The Claimant had also sought the help of the Vancouver Police Department, calling them to the residence over 50 times in less than a year. The Vancouver Police ultimately told the Claimant not to contact them again because there was nothing they could do to assist him. Finally, the Claimant also requested action from the Strata Council, who refused to act because the noise was within acceptable levels and the piano playing was not conducted late at night or for long periods.


The Defendant stated that the Claimant constantly harassed her and her daughter about piano playing by banging on the walls of the Defendant’s residence, shouting obscenities at them, and threatening them with bodily harm. Allegedly, the daughter’s piano examinations had to be postponed due to the Claimant’s constant interference. After the Defendant decided to sell her residence due to the quarrel with the Claimant, the Claimant allegedly interfered with the attempted sale by opening his door and screaming that the building was not a quiet building when prospective purchasers were viewing the residence.


an examination of a court case involving nuisance between neighbors

The Decision


On the issue of credibility, which is how believable a witness’ evidence is, the court found the Defendant to be more credible whenever her evidence conflicted with that of the Claimant.


The court found that the Defendant did not breach bylaws of the City concerning noise or sound, did not engage in nuisance, and did not intentionally inflict emotional distress on the Claimant. On the other hand, the court found that the Claimant did engage in nuisance by banging on the walls, screaming obscenities and threats, and threatening the Defendant and her daughter with bodily harm. The Claimant’s actions qualify as nuisance since they constituted an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the property of the Defendant.


The court awarded the Defendant an estimated loss of the decrease in value of the Defendant’s residence and $3000 in damages for non-monetary damage caused by the Claimant, such as annoyance, interference, inconvenience and discomfort caused by the nuisance. The court found it unnecessary to address the Defendant’s claim for intentional infliction of economic loss, as the decrease in value in Defendant’s residence was included in the damages given for nuisance. The court also found that the Defendant failed to establish that she suffered a visible and provable illness, which is required for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional stress: see Frame v Smith, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 99 at 127-128).


Conclusion


In an ideal world, we would all get along with our neighbors. Unfortunately, neighborly quarrels are not uncommon in our everyday lives, especially as we spend more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes, neighborly quarrels can escalate to the point where you feel you cannot properly use and enjoy your own property.


If you believe that someone, either a neighbor or anyone else, has unreasonably interfered with your use and enjoyment of your property, then you may be entitled to a remedy. The lawyers of Henderson & Lee frequently handle cases involving nuisance and intentional infliction of mental suffering and can help you with your case. Please feel free to contact our office at (604) 558-2258 to book an initial consultation to discuss your case.


Alfonso Chen is a litigation associate who handles cases involving nuisance and intentional infliction of mental suffering, among others.


Chris Wong is an articled student at Henderson & Lee who recently graduated with his Juris Doctor from the University of British Columbia’s law school.


#dispute #neighbour #noisecomplaint #strata

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