WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg homeowner is fighting for the City of Winnipeg to waive a fee he received while stuck abroad during the pandemic.

Arindom Sinha and his family left on a vacation to India in January before travel restrictions had come into effect. The month-long trip turned into a lengthy ordeal with the pandemic being just one of many major hurdles.

“We got stuck for five months. We survived a cyclone, which was a once in 300 years event,” said Sinha. 

When he was finally able to return to Winnipeg in July and finish his quarantine, Sinha checked his mail to find a bill from the city for not mowing his lawn. 

“I was expecting a little help from my hometown, my city, my Winnipeg,” said Sinha. “[The city] chose to hand over a bill of $250, and the reason I was given is there was a unionized worker who had to come here and mow the lawn.”

Sinha wasn’t issued a ticket, however, he was billed the cost of the service. If he would have been given a ticket, it would have cost him another $150. 

Tickets can be issued when a homeowner lets the grass or vegetation on their property grow taller than 15 cm. 

Before a ticket is handed out, by-law officers will investigate and give the homeowner a warning if necessary. If the work is not complete within a certain amount of time, then the city will send someone to do the work, which often results in both a ticket and a fee. 

Waverley West Councillor Janice Lukes said the city did receive complaints about the long grass at Sinha’s home, which prompted staff to investigate. 

Lukes said in the end, the city tried to make a compromise by not issuing a ticket, but still mowing the lawn.

“This situation is not ideal. The pandemic is presenting many situations that are really difficult, and as a city, we have to take these things into consideration, and we have to take into consideration the livability of the neighbourhood,” said Lukes.

Sinha isn’t opposed to the by-law and said he’s never had an issue maintaining his property in the four years he’s lived in this home.

“We didn’t get a chance to mow our lawn when we got back,” said Sinha. 

“This is totally unfair. The city didn’t stand with the homeowner in distress affected by COVID.”

At this point, Lukes said the fee will not be waived.

So far this year, the city has handed out 140 tickets for long grass or vegetation. In 2019, 389 tickets were issued.