The District of North Cowichan imposes requirements respecting health and safety matters on properties to ensure current or future occupiers are not living under conditions that may pose a health risk to anyone residing or entering the property under Controlled Substance Bylaw No. 3803, 2020. The Bylaw establishes various prohibitions in relation to alterations to municipal meters, exhaust vents, electrical systems; obstructions to ingress/egress access; and hazardous conditions.
What is a Hazardous Condition?
The Controlled Substance Bylaw defines a ‘hazardous condition’ to mean any real or potential risk of fire; any real or potential risk to the health or safety of persons or property; any unauthorized alteration; or repairs needed to a Building in accordance with the Building Code or Fire Code. Whereas a ‘hazardous substance’ means a substance in a concentration in excess of that listed in WorkSafe BC’s Table of Exposure Limits for Chemical and Biological Substances, as amended from time to time.
How are Complaints handled?
When a complaint is received alleging a property is being used to grow or cultivate a controlled substance without a valid permit issued by the federal or provincial government or that the property poses a health risk (e.g., the accumulation of mould is visible on a window or wall), a Bylaw Compliance Officer will be dispatched to investigate and determine if the complaint is founded. Depending on the findings, the Officer may direct the property owner to take action to resolve the matter, issue a fine or take further enforcement action to ensure the matter is rectified.
If the matter is not resolved within a specific timeframe, the District may undertake the work necessary to rectify the matter at the expense of the property owner.
What enforcement options are available?
To enforce the Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Bylaw, the municipality may:
- Investigate alleged reports of hazardous conditions or unauthorized drug production facilities;
- Issue a fine under either the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw or the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw;
- Prosecute the alleged offender under the Offence Act;
- Require a special safety inspection;
- Disconnect the property’s water service;
- Take remedial action; or
- Seek an injunction.
Special Safety Inspection
A special safety inspection is an inspection coordinated by an Inspector, from either the Building or Fire Departments (or both), for the purpose of determining the presence of any hazardous condition(s) on the property. Where a special safety inspection has been carried out and the Inspector has determined hazardous conditions exist on the property, a “Do Not Enter or Occupy” notice shall be posted in a conspicuous place at the entrance to the property. No one may enter the property, until the Building Inspector has issued a remediation permit and has removed the “Do Not Enter or Occupy” notice. The cost for each special safety inspection is $500.
For more information regarding special safety inspections, please contact the Building Department at 250.746.3165 or email@example.com.
Disconnection of Water Service
If it is determined that a property is being used as an unauthorized drug production facility, the District may discontinue providing water service to the property. Prior to discontinuance, the District will provide the owner and occupiers with written notice at least 7 days prior to discontinuance. However, if there is a risk of backflow or contamination to the District’s water distribution system, that discontinuance will occur immediately, and a notice will be posted on the property. Where a property has multiple residential dwellings that are connected to the same water service as the unauthorized drug production facility, the water service shall not be discontinued.
For more information regarding water service, please contact the Engineering Department at 250.746.3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue a Fine
If an Inspector, which includes a Bylaw Compliance Officer, has determined that a violation to the Controlled Substance Bylaw has occurred, they may issue a penalty under the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw or the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw.
The fines under the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw range between $100 and $300 and are $100 to $250 under the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw. However, under the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw, each day that the offence exists constitutes and new and separate offence, which means a fine may be applied each day.
Remedial Action of Nuisance Property
The Community Charter authorizes Council to impose remedial action requirements in relation to hazardous or declared conditions, or in circumstances that may cause harm to municipal drainage or dikes.
Failure to comply with the requirements under the Hazardous Condition Requirement List order could result in remedial action being undertaken by the District to enter onto the property to complete the works, if authorized by Council resolution, and the owner would be responsible for all costs incurred as itemized under the Fees and Charges Bylaw.
Offence Act Prosecutions
For information on Offence Act prosecutions, please visit the Offence Act Prosecution webpage. The maximum penalty that can be sought in provincial court, upon conviction, is $10,000 [as established by Bylaw No. 3803].
An injunction is a court order directing a person to do, or not to do, a specified act. The Provincial Court has no jurisdiction to grant injunctions, so they must be sought in Supreme Court. As a result, a lawyer is virtually always involved when an injunction is being sought. Whether the municipality is seeking an injunction or a conviction, each element of the bylaw provision sought to be enforced must be proven.
How long do I have to bring my property into compliance?
A property owner has 60 days to bring their property into compliance with the Controlled Substance Bylaw prior to the District initiating the steps towards remedial action.
When can I re-occupy my property?
Once the Inspector has posted the “Do Not Enter or Occupy” notice on your property, you may not re-occupy it until you have:
- Obtained all of the permits and approvals necessary to carry out the work;
- A subsequent special safety inspection has been completed to determine that all conditions within the Hazardous Conditions Requirement List have been met;
- Provided a certificate from a qualified environmental professional that verifies that the work completed and the Inspector has removed the notice.
What if my tenant will not leave after I have given them an eviction notice?
If you have received a notice from your tenant that they are disputing your notice to end their tenancy and you are not able to complete the work identified, you may submit in writing a request to make representation to Council to request an extension to the 60-day deadline for compliance.
Requests for extensions should be submitted to the Corporate Officer at email@example.com prior to the expiry of the 60-day deadline.