A local homeowner claims a property management company has unlawfully fined him hundreds of dollars for allegedly leaving garbage outside a condo he rents out.

In August 2017, Gurdial Jassal received a letter from Helm Property Management with a $250 fine after an inspection found garbage outside his unit, and a boxspring by the garbage bin.

“I went there myself and found out that everything was clean and there was no boxspring by the garbage,” Jassal said to Helm in an email, “so please waive this fine, and in the future, if the board notices anything like that, I would like to see a warning, not a fine.”

The fine was not waived; it grew.

A 1.5 per cent monthly interest charge was added to Jassal’s fine, and he was also charged a fee for the lawyer Helm Property Management hired to collect the fees.

“They didn’t tell [the lawyer] it was a fine,” Jassal said. “They told him it was an outstanding condominium fee.”

In an email to CTV News, Joel Helm said: "Their were numerous letters including warning letter to the unit owner with respect to garbage. We were instructed by the Board on this matter and it was sent to legal counsel for collection."

Jassal insists he was not warned. He was fined a second time for leaving garbage out last fall. Helm’s lawyers placed a caveat for "arrears" in respect to "condominium fees," and the bank paid out the outstanding $773.23.

“I’m very frustrated, yeah … I’m going to fight for it.”

‘There’s no such thing as condo police’

The Condominium Property Act states that boards can issue monetary fines when bylaws are violated, but the amount of the sanctions must be set out. Jassal’s bylaws do not have preset penalties.

“Boards do not always have a mechanism to deal with those breaches and what happens is they’ll issue fines blindly sometimes,” said Shelly MacMillan, director at Condo Owners Council of Alberta (COCOA).

MacMillan puts the responsibility on owners and board members for not knowing their “roles and responsibilities,” and even the province, for not having mandatory education for them. But she admits that homeowners are the ones who pay—literally.

“They pay them blindly sometimes when they shouldn’t … You want owners to comply with bylaws, not owners to be cash cows to be bringing in fine revenues for the corporation.

“They don’t know their bylaws and they overstep their bounds. They forget that they have rules to follow.”

COCOA is working on pamphlets and modules to educate condo owners.

Helm Property Management declined an interview request.

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Nicole Weisberg