The District of North Cowichan regulates nuisance properties according to the Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Bylaw No. 3804, 2020. Nuisance properties are properties with activities that substantially and unreasonably interfere with a person’s use and enjoyment of land he or she occupies. Although Bylaw Services does not regulate criminal activity, the related disturbances from these criminal activities may be considered a nuisance.
What is a Nuisance?
The Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Bylaw defines a nuisance to be:
- noise, vibration, odour, dust, illumination or any other matter that is liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals or the public;
- the emission of smoke, dust, gas, sparks, ash, soot, cinders, fumes or other effluvia that is liable to foul or contaminate the atmosphere;
- refuse, garbage or other material that is noxious, offensive or unwholesome;
- the accumulation of water on property;
- unsanitary conditions on property;
- overgrown grass, weeds or trees;
- the carrying on of a noxious or offensive business activity;
- graffiti and unsightly conditions on property;
- indecency and profane, blasphemous or grossly insulting language; and
- anything which constitutes a nuisance at law.
A nuisance, in law, is a human activity or a physical condition that is harmful or offensive to others and gives rise to a cause of action. A public nuisance created in a public place or on public land, or affecting the morals, safety, or health of the community, is considered an offense against the state. Such activities as obstructing a public road, polluting air and water, operating a house of prostitution, and keeping explosives are public nuisances. A private nuisance is an activity or condition that interferes with the use and enjoyment of neighbouring privately owned lands, without, however, constituting an actual invasion of the property. Thus, excessive noise, noxious vapours, and disagreeable odours and vibrations may constitute a private nuisance to the neighbouring landowners, although there has been no physical trespass on their lands.
What is a Noxious Weed?
For the list of noxious weeds which the District is actively monitoring, please visit the Invasive Species Management webpage.
How are Complaints handled?
When a complaint is received alleging a property is (unsightly) a nuisance, 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 nuisance or noxious weeds;
- 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;
- Issue an Order or Notice to the owner or occupant to remedy the contravention and to prevent reoccurrences;
- Take remedial action; or
- Seek an injunction.
When is an Order or Notice issued?
Once a complaint is received, an inspection is conducted by a Bylaw Compliance Officer or the Weed Control Officer. If it is determined that the property falls within the definition of a nuisance or noxious weeds are located on your property, the officer will issue an Order or Notice and explain to the owner what must be done to remediate the property.
The Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Bylaw has designated the Manager of Bylaw and Business Licensing Services with the authority to issue a Weeds, Graffiti and Litter Order or an Clean Up Order and the Weeds Control Officer to issue a Noxious Weeds Notice to a person where it has been determined that a bylaw contravention may have occurred.
The Bylaw specifies the manner in which the a Weeds, Graffiti and Litter Order or an Clean Up Order is to be served on the owner or occupant of the property, while the Weed Control Act defines the method of service for a Noxious Weeds Notice.
The Order or Notice will contain the information required by sections 5.3 or 5.7 of the Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery Bylaw or schedule B of the Weed Control Act and Weed Control Regulation (BC Reg. 66/85).
If sufficient clean-up of the property has not taken place after the deadline has lapsed, the District may have the property cleaned up at the expense of the property owner. If the owner does not pay, the cost of the clean-up will be added to the property owner's property taxes
Weeds, Graffiti and Litter Order
If a Bylaw Compliance Officer investigates a complaint and determines that the property contains grass, weeds or trees that are overgrown, graffiti or strewn litter, the Manager of Bylaw and Business Licensing Services may issue a Weeds, Graffiti and Litter Order.
If an Order is issued, the property owner will have at least 5 business days to fulfill the requirements under the Order. If you are unable to comply with the deadline provided in the Order you must contact Bylaw Services at email@example.com prior to the expiration of the deadline to request that the Order, be reconsidered or the deadline extended. Failure to comply could result in remedial action.
Clean Up Order
If a Bylaw Compliance Officer investigates a complaint and determines that the property contains a nuisance, unrelated to weeds, graffiti or litter, such unsanitary conditions, derelict vehicles or deteriorating structures, the Manager of Bylaw and Business Licensing Services may issue a Clean UP Order.
If an Order is issued, the property owner will have at least 30 calendar days to fulfill the requirements under the Order. If you are unable to comply with the deadline provided in the Order you must contact Bylaw Services at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the expiration of the deadline to request that the Order, be reconsidered or the deadline extended. Failure to comply could result in remedial action.
Noxious Weeds Notice
Where the Weed Control Officer determines that a property contains noxious weeds present or growing thereon, the Officer shall give notice writing to the owner or occupier to remove any such condition and require the owner or occupier to comply with the provisions set out under the Weed Control Act and Weed Control Regulation (BC Reg. 66/85) within no less than 5 business days from the date of such notice.
Do I have a right to appeal the Order or Notice?
Owners or occupants are provided the right to reconsider the Order issued by the Manager of Bylaw and Business Licensing Services. The owner or occupant may hold the opinion that the allegation of nuisance is unfounded or that the remedial action ordered by the designated officer is excessive or unreasonable. The reconsideration process enables the owner or occupant to formally discuss the matter with the Manager of Fire and Bylaw Services.
The Weed Control Act does not provide for an appeal process when a Noxious Weeds Notice is issued by the Weeds Control Officer. Once issued, the owner or occupant must comply with the Notice or face penalties or remedial action.
Deadline to submit appeal request
If you wish to have your Order reconsidered by the Manager of Fire and Bylaw Services, you must submit the request in writing to the Corporate Officer at email@example.com at least 2 days prior to the expiration of the time for compliance set out in the Weeds, Graffiti and Litter Order or 2 weeks for a Clean Up Order.
What happens if I do not comply with the Order or Notice?
Fine may be Issued
If a Bylaw Compliance or Weed Control Officer has determined that a violation to the Nuisance Abatement and Cost Recovery 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 $200 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 $200 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 a Noxious Weeds Notice could result in remedial action under section 7 of the Weed Control Act. For more information regarding your responsibilities to manage invasive species on your property, please visit the Invasive Species Management webpage.
Whether the authority to take remedial action comes from the Community Charter or the Weed Control Act, the municipality has the right 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.
The Fees and Charges Bylaw authorizes the municipality to levy fees for actions taken by the District to deal with issues ranging from unsightly premises to accumulated garbage on properties, noxious weeds, overgrown trees, weeds and any other growth that the District feels should be cut down or trimmed. The bylaw allows for actual costs to be collected for labour, equipment, contractor, and materials costs related to abating a nuisance if remedial action is authorized by Council. This would allow the District to directly abate nuisances for identified nuisance properties and impose the costs onto the property taxes as a special charge against the land for the property if the fees remain unpaid.
Offence Act Prosecutions
For information on Offence Act prosecutions, please visit the Offence Act Prosecutions webpage. The maximum penalty that can be sought in provincial court, upon conviction, is $10,000 (as established by Bylaw No. 3804).
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.