Many people and professions have regular dealings with condominiums and condominium owners. Whether you live in one, sell them or manage them, you’ve undoubtedly heard some horror stories about how awful the issues facing the condominium community can be. Well, we’ve heard those stories, too.
Do you think your neighbour is the worst person you’ve ever met? Do you cross the street just to avoid that person? Does conversation die off when they pass? It may just be that there are worse out there.
In a past Ontario decision, you can see what it really means to be a terrible neighbour. York Condominium Corp. No. 137 v. Hayes was a case decided in the Ontario Superior Court last summer. The condominium corporation went to court to seek an injunction which essentially prevented a particular unit owner from having anything to do with the condominium board, the other unit owners, and the common property. The corporation also asked the Court to force the unit owner to sell.
The respondent in the application, the problem unit owner, was accused of physically assaulting, threatening and verbally abusing several other unit owners. One such unit owner was an 80 year old woman, who the respondent shouted profanities and expletives at while the elderly woman was walking around the condominium property. The elderly woman lived with her daughter in the condominium, and when the daughter confronted the respondent about the incident with her mother, the respondent went on a rampage. As described in the legal proceeding:
The respondent yelled at Mrs. Agostinho and threw her bags down on the ground. Mrs. Agostinho moved one of the respondent’s bags out of the way and started walking up the stairs toward the lobby of the condominium. The respondent grabbed Mrs Agostinho from behind, causing Mrs. Agostino’s glasses to fall off. The respondent picked up the glasses and threw them away, causing them to break. Mrs. Agostinho tried to pull away from the respondent. The respondent grabbed Mrs Agostinho’s hair and then pulled off Mrs. Agostino’s jacket. The respondent then started throwing punches at Mrs. Agostinho’s face.
All of the above was captured on security cameras which were shown in Court. There were many witnesses to the abhorrent behaviour of the respondent, and many other unit owners had faced her wrath. But despite just being an interesting read of the unbelievable acts of the respondent, the case also makes interesting comments about the Board’s duty to unit owners. While discussing the Board’s duty to enforce its bylaws and rules, and provincial legislation (in this case, Ontario), the judge makes the comments:
One of the advantages of requiring compliance is that a message is sent, by the board and the court, to unit owners that the declaration, bylaws and rules are in place for a good reason and that they will be enforced. To permit noncompliance opens the door to the noncompliance of other unit owners.
The provisions of the Act and the declaration, bylaws and rules are “vital to the integrity of the title acquired by” unit owners. Unit owners are not only bound by the rules and regulations but are “entitled to insist that other unit owners are similarly bound”
The Court refused to force the respondent to sell her unit and would not grant the very broad injunction requested by the Board. However, it did provide an order which essentially required the respondent to use good behavior, to cease and desist from uncivil, improper or illegal conduct which violated the Act or rules/bylaws of the condominium and to stay away from her previous “victims”. The Court indicated a desire to allow the respondent an opportunity to demonstrate that she could learn to play well with others.
In the event that you have condominium owners who cannot seem to play well with others, make note of the fact that the Ontario legislation has a provision allowing the Court to intervene to force compliance of the Act, bylaws, and rules and regulations of a condominium. Saskatchewan has no such provision, but arbitration is set out as a method of dispute resolution.
The moral of the story is that anyone can have a bad neighbour and in the event your bad neighbour appears worse than the above case, you should certainly talk to the Board about making things right. The Board is there to help, and has an obligation to keep the peace to the best of their ability. Should intervention by the Board fail, our provincial legislation provides for arbitration as a means of seeking resolution.