Surrey woman learns the hard way not to damage neighbour’s hedge

SUKHWINDER Kaur Khatkar of Surrey has been ordered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Amy D. Francis to pay her neighbours almost $150,000 as well as court costs for causing the destruction of a mature cedar hedge that was on the property line between the plaintiff’s property and Khatkar’s property.
The judgement, which was posted on the court’s website on August 31, identifies the plaintiff as 0973210 B.C. Ltd.
Khatkar did not appear in court and the judge noted that the defendant was well aware of the date on which the summary trial was proceeding. So she ordered the trial to proceed in the absence of the defendant.
The judge said: “The plaintiff claims that the defendant unlawfully trespassed onto the plaintiff’s property between July and December, 2021, and on many occasions cut the tops and the branches off the plaintiff’s cedar trees, ultimately causing their cedar hedge to be destroyed. The defendant did not have permission to do this.
“The plaintiff had a mature cedar hedge that ran the length of the east side of the plaintiff’s property. That cedar hedge is on the property line between the plaintiff’s property and the defendant’s property.
“The cedar hedge provided a complete privacy screen between the two properties, which was something that the two individuals who lived on the plaintiff’s property valued about the property.
“Between the cedar hedge and the defendant’s property, on the plaintiff’s property, there was a chain link fence that separated the two properties. The cedar hedge and the cedar trees were located on the plaintiff’s side of the chain link fence; they were clearly on the plaintiff’s side of the property line.
“The evidence, which included photographic and video evidence, amply supports the factual finding that starting in July 2021, the defendant repeatedly trespassed onto the plaintiff’s property and damaged the cedar trees and the cedar hedge.”
The plaintiff contacted the police at least twice and on one occasion an RCMP constable told Khatkar “that she did not have permission to cut the cedar hedge that was not on her property and was clearly on the plaintiff’s property, and told her to cease trespassing on the plaintiff’s property.”
The judge said: “Approximately 30 minutes after the constable left, the defendant re entered the plaintiff’s property and continued to damage the plaintiff’s cedar trees in direct contravention of the warning of the police, not to mention the repeated warnings given by the plaintiff.”
By October 21, 2021, approximately 75 of the plaintiff’s cedar trees had been limbed and topped by about 9 to 11 feet each, leaving the trees only about four to five feet in height.
The judge added: “Despite repeated warnings, the defendant continued trespassing and continued cutting cedar trees. On December 20, 2021, the defendant appears to have trespassed onto the plaintiff’s property and also cut a portion of the chain link fence separating the two properties.”
The judge said she had no trouble finding on the evidence before her that Khatkar’s trespass resulted in permanent damage to over 74 of the plaintiff’s cedar trees.
The judge said: “A certified arborist inspected the cedar hedge in November 2021 and prepared a report of his findings and recommendations. His opinion was that the only way to remediate the damage was to replace the entire cedar hedge with new trees that would, by necessity, be of shorter height and take some time to grow. In accordance with that recommendation, the plaintiff had the cedar hedge and the chain link fence replaced. The cost of the service to install the replacement trees, install a cedar fence, and perform the necessary turf repairs was $59,915.73.”
She noted: “The plaintiff seeks to be reimbursed for the cost of replacing the cedar hedge and the chain link fence. Second, the plaintiff seeks an award for loss of amenity. Third, the plaintiff seeks an award for loss of enjoyment and privacy.”
The judge said that she had no trouble in concluding that the plaintiff was entitled to general damages for its remediation costs in the amount of $59,915.73.

She also ruled that “the plaintiff is entitled to compensatory damages for the loss of use and enjoyment of the trees to the extent the remedial work does not completely replace what has been lost” and granted “an additional $50,000 for loss of amenity.”
The judge also said: “I have no trouble concluding that the plaintiff is entitled to special damages for the cost of the arborist’s report and survey. … As such I make the award for special damages in the amount of $3,575.25.”
Regarding punitive damages, the judge ruled: “I agree with the plaintiff that the defendant’s conduct was reckless, high handed, and is without question deserving of punitive damages. Such reckless disregard for the property rights of others ought to be discouraged for reasons of denunciation and deterrence. As such, I assess punitive damages in the amount of $35,000.”
The judge also ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s court costs.



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