Real Estate

Condo boards must proactively address harassment: Greco

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Harassment is a growing concern for condo corporations, says Toronto condominium lawyer Patrick Greco.

“It’s a huge issue. Cases are coming across my desk on an almost daily basis,” Greco, partner with Shibley Righton LLP, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

While property managers bear the brunt of verbal, emotional, and more rarely, physical abuse from residents, he says security guards, board members, and unit owners have also found themselves the target of various levels of harassment.

“There are examples on a very wide continuum,” Greco says. “But we have found that the courts have a fairly short temper with this sort of behaviour, and are not giving much quarter to the harassers.”

For example, in one recent case, an Ontario Superior Court judge found a resident’s “physical misconduct” and “campaign of aggression” against an Ottawa condo’s staff, directors and unit owners constituted workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

The judge imposed an injunction on the resident, prohibiting him from communicating with almost anyone associated with the condo, except in an emergency or via a lawyer acting for the corporation.

The judge in the case also cited another decision, in which Greco successfully obtained an order on behalf of a Toronto condo corporation, that a unit owner who had been verbally abusive of staff cease and desist from uncivil or illegal conduct in violation of the Condominium Act.

In order to boost their case should legal action become necessary, Greco says condo staff or directors should meticulously document concerning incidents and set clear boundaries for residents whose behaviour risks crossing a line into harassment, such as limiting them to in-writing complaints only.

“Courts have taken the view that complaining is not harassment. People have a right to be disgruntled, within reason,” Greco explains. “What judges don’t want to see is that complainants have just been told to shut up entirely.”

In addition, he says condo corporations should turn their minds towards enacting anti-harassment policies and fully investigate any incidents of alleged harassment that are brought to their attention by staff.

“Most boards are very good and protective of their site staff, but if they fail to investigate or deal with any concerns raised by employees, they could find themselves in trouble under the OHSA for tacitly allowing harassment, especially if there are any further incidents,” Greco says.

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