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Employment & Labour

Dealing with nightmare neighbours in condos

Two recent decisions demonstrate how far the courts are willing to go to deal with disruptive condominium owners and tenants, says Toronto labour and employment lawyer John De Vellis.

“These court decisions are welcome news for condo corporations because they show that abusive and harassing behaviour will not be tolerated,” says De Vellis, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP.

In the first case, a condo owner’s behaviour grew increasingly bizarre and eventually became threatening and dangerous, De Vellis tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The condo corporation ultimately took the case to court, claiming the woman’s behaviour constituted workplace harassment as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and that she breached s.117 of the Condominium Act by harassing, threatening, intimidating, verbally abusing and physically assaulting a staff member.

The applicant also alleged that the resident breached the condo rules by creating “noise and nuisance, including yelling, using threatening language and attempting to instigate a fight on the common elements to disturb the comfort and quiet enjoyment of persons therein,” states the judge’s decision.  

Based on the woman’s often-erratic behaviour, the applicant asked the judge to order that she undergo a mental health assessment.

“These kinds of situations are difficult for condo corporations because you have someone who you strongly suspect has mental health issues, but it’s really difficult to get them an assessment,” says De Vellis.

In that case, the judge declined to order an evaluation.

“Such orders are to be granted only in rare circumstances and only when there is evidence to suggest the person is incapable of understanding information with respect to the proceeding or she is unable to understand the consequences of a decision,” explains De Vellis.

The judge did, however, rule the woman’s actions constituted workplace harassment and that she contravened the Condominium Act and the building's “quiet enjoyment” rule.

In issuing a compliance order, the judge said “people who move into a condominium must be prepared to live by the rules of the community that they are joining.”

De Vellis says the court’s declaration that the woman’s behaviour amounted to workplace harassment is significant. “It means that the OHSA can be used as a legal tool in enforcement actions against residents who abuse or harass condominium management or staff.”

Another case demonstrates the extent to which a court can go to protect condos and their occupants from disruptive tenants.

In that matter, the judge called the behaviour of the respondent and her daughter “appalling.”

“The affidavit in support of this application describes loud screaming in the middle of the night, disturbing the peace of the other unit owners — some of those owners have recorded the screaming, which is audible from inside their units. The Respondent and her daughter apparently fight constantly, requiring the attendance of the police and ambulance at their unit. They allow the dog to wander the hallways of the building, soiling the hallway and the elevator in the way that dogs will do,” wrote the judge.

The respondent had been given several warnings from building management, but they had little effect. The judge said he had no choice but to intervene to protect other owners and residents. He said the woman and her daughter would have to vacate the unit within 30 days and sell within 90 days.

De Vellis calls it a drastic step. To get to that stage, he says condo corporations have to document everything they can.

“They have to keep incident reports and statements from the people who are affected. Gather as much evidence as possible; and document the warnings to prove that you tried to deal with the problem.

"You need a paper trail showing the you didn’t just run to court. And, as a last resort, you go to a lawyer and then to court.”

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