A lawsuit against the Township of Langley, over a bill for the costs of fighting a fire in a drug lab, has been dismissed by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
A Nov. 18 order by Justice Robert Jenkins at the Chilliwack courthouse ordered the lawsuit dismissed, and ordered that the homeowners who had sued the Township were liable for the Township’s legal costs.
The origin of the legal dispute was a Jan. 10, 2015 fire in the 22900 block of 40th Avenue, in a rental house that was then owned by Amarjit and Gurminder Gill.
The Gills were farmers who had rented out an additional house on their property.
Unfortunately, the home went up in flames shortly afterwards, and when Township firefighters had doused the blaze, they found the remnants of a drug lab.
The tenants had rented the home just days before the fire. They vanished in the aftermath of the blaze and have never been identified.
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After the ashes had cooled, the Township sent the Gills a bill for $33,376, which the Township said was the cost of fighting the fire.
Under Township bylaws, the Township can charge property owners if fire crews are sent out “in connection with the commission of an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.” The bill goes to the landowner, even if a tenant is the one who committed the crime.
Fires in drug labs are fairly common, and illicit cannabis grow operations used to regularly cause fires in the years before legalization.
When the Gills objected to the bill, the Township added the cost to their property taxes in 2017. The Gills paid up.
In 2018, they sued the Township, saying that they had no knowledge of illegal activity in their rental house.
They also argued that there was no formula or calculation given to them to show how the Township arrived at the figure of more than $33,000 for the bill for the fire. They sought the return of their money, with interest.
In March, the Township asked a judge to throw out the case, saying it had been filed too late.
Although the Gills argued through their lawyer about the limitation period on filing a lawsuit, the judge agreed with the Township.
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