Casual Legal: Compensation for property damage
By Taylor Thiesen
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
It is fairly well known that when someone is convicted of a criminal offence, they can be ordered to pay restitution for property damage they have caused. It is less well known that a similar type of compensation can also be ordered for bylaw offences.
Municipal bylaw offences are prosecuted under the Provincial Offences Procedure Act (“POPA”), which applies to “every case in which a person commits or is suspected of having committed an offence under an enactment for which that person may be liable to imprisonment, fine, penalty or other punishment.” Typically, in the case of bylaw offences, that punishment will be a fine – either a fine set out in a specified penalty, or a fine within a range set out in the bylaw.
The court may also “on the application of a person aggrieved, at the time sentence is imposed, order the defendant to pay to the applicant an amount of not more than $100,000 as compensation for loss of or damage to property suffered by the applicant as a result of the commission of the offence, where the amount is readily ascertainable.”
To simplify: when someone has caused property damage in the commission of a bylaw offence, and the value of the loss can be readily determined, the person (or entity) that suffered the loss can apply for an order that the person repay that amount. This application must be made at the time when the person is being sentenced – typically the day of the trial.
Notably, an order for compensation for property damage can be made in addition to the fine set out in the bylaw. It is not a matter of choosing between one or the other.
While it may not be very common for a person to damage property owned by the municipality in the course of a bylaw offence, if this does occur, the municipality may find this remedy useful.
Alternatively, if an individual’s property is damaged, resulting in financial loss (for example, if someone’s pet is attacked by a dog, resulting in vet bills), that person has an opportunity to make an application under section 9(1) of POPA.
In such cases, the municipality may wish to communicate to the victim that they have the right to make this application, as few people are aware that this procedure exists, and it may offer the victim an opportunity to obtain a meaningful remedy for the loss they suffered.
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.