Enforcing the Wrong Bylaw

Authority City of Surrey

After paving a driveway in front of his home, Jesse was surprised to receive a letter from the city saying that the driveway was larger than a local bylaw allowed. The city told him it had to be removed, and that failure to comply with this request could result in legal action by the city. Unhappy about having to tear up his driveway, Jesse came to us, saying he did not understand the decision.

We investigated. The city said that it had told Jesse that his driveway required a building permit. Unpermitted driveways like Jesse’s could be subject to enforcement action by the city.

In response to our investigation, the city noted an error: Jesse’s driveway did not exceed the paving area permitted by bylaw as Jesse had originally been told. Jesse actually required a city road and right-of-way permit, which he did not have.

Although the city, at this point, was no longer requiring Jesse to remove his driveway, we remained concerned. The letter Jesse received from the city had threatened enforcement action based on the wrong bylaw.

As a result of our investigation, the city agreed to review and clarify its bylaw enforcement process for driveways to ensure that, before threatening enforcement action, the city correctly identifies the bylaw that authorizes it to request a property owner modify, reconstruct, or remove a driveway. The city also agreed to ensure that any letters threatening to commence bylaw enforcement action contain precise information about the specific, applicable bylaw that the property owner is alleged by the city to be in contravention of.

Names in our case summaries have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This case study can also be found in the 2016-2017 Annual Report.

Category Housing and Property, Local Government
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2016
Location The Lower Mainland