A Vernon metal artist has been ordered to pay $23,000 to his mother after taking her to court over the property they have shared since the 1990s.
In a B.C. Supreme Court judgement published Wednesday, Feb. 8, Justice Gary Weatherill ruled in favour of the mother in the “unfortunate family dispute,” ordering 50-year-old Corey James Tyler Fuhr to pay the sum and vacate the property.
Fuhr argued his mother, Carol Simpson Taylor, 73, held a one-half interest in the five-acre property in trust for him. This was despite the fact that he had voluntarily given up his interest in the MacDonald Road property in 2015.
Taylor counterclaimed for damages for trespassing, unpaid rent and other misconduct.
Taylor’s parents purchased the farm property in 1957, and when they died in the late 1990s, the property was passed to Taylor and her brother — Fuhr’s uncle.
In 1997, Fuhr began renovating an old barn on the property into his metal sculpturing studio. In 1999, Taylor moved into her parents’ small farmhouse on the property and Fuhr moved into a mobile home on the property with his common-law wife Stephanie Scott.
In 2001, Fuhr and Scott purchased his uncle’s half of the property for just over $114,000, equal to half the property’s market value at the time. By 2009, Fuhr and Scott had paid off their mortgage.
Taylor had started growing garlic and berries, which reduced her property taxes and water bills significantly as it gave the property farm status.
Fuhr then built a suite on the property where he and Scott resided and put in a septic system. The judgement notes he did not have permits for either.
In 2013, Fuhr suffered significant injuries from an ATV crash. After the crash, Fuhr began excessively drinking and was delinquent in paying his income taxes, owing more than $62,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Taylor heard about the debt and sought a loan with which to pay the CRA, but that could only happen if the property was registered solely in her name.
In 2015, Scott died of cancer. Fuhr was “emotionally distraught” and drank “excessive amounts of alcohol.” With Scott’s death, Fuhr and Taylor each owned an even half of the property. Fuhr’s sister — who lived in a recreational home on the property around the time of Scott’s death — said Fuhr was intoxicated most nights which manifested in “loud, aggressive and frightening behaviour” that traumatized herself and Taylor.
On August 18, 2015, Fuhr transferred his one-half interest in the property over to his mother in an agreement that allowed him to continue living at the property as long as he paid her $400 per month to help pay the interest on the loan.
Fuhr met his current wife in 2017, and the two have been living on the property since the summer of 2019.
In 2018, Fuhr stopped paying the $400 per month, taking the position that his mother held his one-half interest in the property in trust for him. He retained a lawyer and commenced legal action on June 18 of that year.
At this point, “the parties became hostile towards one another,” Weatherill notes in his judgement, adding on several occasions police were called to the property.
Taylor later issued her son an eviction notice and the case went to the Residential Tenancy Branch, which determined it had no jurisdiction over the matter.
It was around this time that Fuhr constructed an eight-foot high, 250-foot-long barricade out of old plywood and garage doors, separating his living space from his mother’s and blocking her access to the back two-thirds of the property.
In 2019, Taylor was at her “wit’s end” with her son not making the $400 payments, and she cut off the power to his suite and studio, only to have him install an off-grid power system out of batteries and inverters.
In her counterclaim, Taylor said she wanted to have her son removed from the property because their relationship had “totally deteriorated.”
In his decision, Weatherill found Fuhr’s testimony to be “unfocused, defensive and accusatory…in cross-examination, he frequently responded with unhelpful and hateful explanations.”
“In contrast, the defendant gave her evidence in a straightforward and even-handed manner,” Weatherill wrote.
“Where their evidence conflicts, I accept the defendant’s evidence over the plaintiff’s. Specifically, I accept the defendant’s evidence that the plaintiff has had issues with excessive alcohol consumption for many years and that his erratic and childish behaviour is likely a reflection of his alcohol use.”
The decision notes Fuhr went on a “rampage” in 2018, destroying some 2,000 bulbs of garlic which resulted in Taylor losing her farm status and having her property taxes and water costs increased.
“The plaintiff has been his own worst enemy,” Weatherill said.
Weatherill decided Taylor is the legal owner of the property and ordered Fuhr to pay her $23,000, dismantle the barricade, and vacate the property within 60 days.