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Commercial Litigation, Real Estate

Harassment of condo managers a growing problem

Condominium corporations should enact anti-harassment rules to protect their property managers and staff, Toronto condominium and commercial litigator Megan Mackey tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Mackey, partner with Shibley Righton LLP, says it's an emerging and growing issue, and she has dealt with numerous cases involving emotional, and more rarely, physical abuse of those who work in condominiums.

“It’s a very serious problem that can affect a person’s whole life,” she says. “Managers have to deal with all kinds of things in their work, whether it be floods, snowstorms, or unexpected staffing shortages. But there’s no reason why they should have to put up with harassment in the workplace. It’s completely unnecessary.”  

According to Mackey, condo corporations can make her job easier by incorporating an anti-harassment policy into their rules that specifically prohibits unit owners and residents from harassing people on the site.

“Anti-harassment provisions give us more tools to address problematic behaviour in the event we have to go to court,” she explains.

Mackey says the front-line nature of the property manager's job makes them a convenient target for problematic residents. Although condo boards set rules and make decisions, it’s usually up to the managers to enforce them.

“The manager is the messenger communicating decisions to residents, so they are usually the ones who bear the brunt of frustration, even though the issue is usually outside of their control,” she says. “People seem to take it personally — as if the manager is specifically targeting them — rather than simply doing their job and enforcing rules for everyone.”  

Mackey says the property managers at some of her client condo corporations have been on the receiving end of “horrific" emails or verbal abuse delivered in-person at the management office. In one recent case, the police had to be called when a resident’s attacks turned physical.

“It terrorizes people,” she says.

“But the good news is that there are steps that can be taken,” says Mackey, who warns that a laissez-faire attitude to harassment could see corporations struggle to attract talented applicants for property manager positions.

“Great managers aren’t going to stick around if they’re not being protected, and you could end up with a revolving door if the abuse continues,” she says.

Mackey says court proceedings can be instituted, resulting in an order for a troublesome resident to behave themselves. She tries to tailor the requested order as specifically as possible.

“Depending on the behaviour exhibited, you can get a court order that is quite specific in addressing it,” she says.

For example, a resident who was frequently appearing at the property manager's office to insult employees was ordered to call ahead before showing up.

“That took the edge off because staff members were able to get on with their duties without worrying about whether she would appear out of nowhere,” Mackey says.  

In another case, a tenant in a unit was blocked from communicating directly with the property manager’s office and ordered instead to communicate any concerns via the unit owner.

In most cases, she says a court order is enough to force residents to “fall in line” and stop the harassment. However, for extreme cases, it is possible to obtain an order directing the individual to vacate or sell the unit.

“The abuse will only rarely be bad enough to warrant that kind of remedy, and judges will be reluctant to make the order,” Mackey says.

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