Posted August 25, 2014
It all started one fall day four years ago when Jim Galatianos, a single dad with two children, was confronted by two men who said they were city bylaw property standards officers and were responding to a complaint about debris in his backyard.
They showed no identification and told the homeowner they had the right to enter his property at anytime without advance notice to inspect his premises. They said their authority was city Bylaw (2008) -18552, a five-page document passed by city council May 27, 2008. Its originator was Coun. Leanne Piper who claimed that dealing with enforcing property standards was taking too long and a hardship on the staff.
It should be noted that the bylaw calls for a maximum fine of $100,000.
So what triggered this confrontation by the city? The complainant was never identified but Jim has a pretty good idea who it is.
The unannounced crash investigation of Jim’s backyard centred around alleged debris. It consisted of a deflated plastic swimming pool that Jim’s kids used in the summer and a plastic sheet that was used in the winter to create a skating rink. There was an old iron stove that Jim used to cook meat and a pile of splintered oak hardwood for use in the stove. Then there was a complaint about leaves in the yard. Turns out they are grape leaves that Jim collects in the fall to protect and fertilize his vines and berry plants.
The bylaw officers returned later and informed Jim they were removing the iron stove, He was told that he had to remove the pool and rink base and clean up the yard or the city would do it and charge him.
He was also asked if anyone lived in his daughter’s playhouse.
Jim locked the gate to his yard, but while he was at work, the bylaw officers entered his property from a neighbour’s yard and removed the hinges on the gate to allow in a contractor who stated on his invoice: “Garbage removal and clean up.”
The city then billed him $208.65 plus a “user fee” of $50 when he paid the amount at City Hall.
Jim made numerous attempts to reach his ward councilours June Hofland and Maggie Laidlaw who did not return his calls or reply to his emails.
Jim Galatianos is a modest man with limited means. Yet he had to refinance his home to pay some $12,000 in legal costs in attempts to have his personal property returned. He values the items removed at $2,100. He is asking the court to have the city cover his legal fees and a punitive award of $20,000. The civil trial is to be held November 20, 2014.
This is a blatant disregard by the city to honour individual property rights. These property standards officers became judge, jury and executioners with no recourse by the owner of the property.
In fact, Jim’s lawyer in the statement of claim, pointed out that the officers did not inform Jim pursuant to section 3.2 of the power of entry bylaw (#2009-18776) that the officers were required to inform Jim that the right of entry could be refused. If refused, the officers could only enter under the authority of and Order or warrant as specifierd in the bylaw.
In the case of the student lodgings in single family neighbourhoods, where are these officers, armed with this draconian bylaw that allows them to enter a property in which there is a suspected breach of the bylaw? Also included is enforcement of the noise bylaw, (loud music) evidence of misuse of toilet facilities (too many people) real garbage and debris in the house and yard? Why are the city bylaw officers failing to enforce those bylaws to protect property standards and individual rights?
This is happening almost every weekend in many quiet, single family neighbourhoods in wards five and six, where houses have been converted into student lodging with multiple tenants. Frequently, observers have noted that drugs and alcohol are being sold during these so-called “kegger” parties in which beer is bring sold at $5 a cup. These offenses are the responsibility of the police.
The officers were uncooperative with Jim and he finally called police. He was told that bylaw officers couldn’t enter a person’s property without the owner receiving prior notice or giving permission. It appears not even the police were aware of this bylaw passed by the city in 2008. They did respond and questioned neighbours about who removed the iron stove with negative results.
The property standards officers dodged the issue by saying they were not on the property on the day in question.
It is ironic that the Farbridge administration has proclaimed endlessly about people’s rights and environmental causes that they turn out to be closet fascists.
How would you feel if some nosy neighbour called the city and sent these two out to your property and removed your personal property without recourse?
There is something terribly wrong when a municipal government can pass laws that impacts the rights of citizens to the quiet enjoyment of their property.
In this case the city was an ass and this should have been resolved in a responsible and orderly way instead of the storm trooper tactics used by city staff.
Who can help this single dad to receive justice? Don’t depend on the city staff. The damage has already been done.