In a recent case, PSCC No. 984 v. 8465361 Canada Limited, an abusive owner of a commercial condominium unit was ordered by the Superior Court of Justice to vacate and sell his unit.
For two years the owner had engaged in harassment, abuse and threatening behavior directed at the employees, managers, and board members of the condominium corporation (“PSCC 984 Personnel”), as well as other unit owners.
Before finally obtaining the order mandating the sale of the unit, the corporation made numerous appearances in court:
- First, the corporation obtained an interim order prohibiting the owner from communicating, harassing or coming within 25 feet of PSCC 984 Personnel.
- A subsequent application to make the interim order a permanent order was adjourned based on the owner’s alleged heart condition, even though the owner did not provide any documentary evidence of the alleged medical condition. However, the interim order was maintained.
- A further application for a permanent order was also adjourned on the basis of the owner’s still undocumented alleged medical condition, with the proviso that the owner could not file any responding material until the owner had paid the costs relating to the two prior applications (which amounted to $5500). Once again, the interim order was maintained.
The corporation then applied to the court for an order finding the owner in contempt of court as he had breached the interim orders by continuing to harass PSCC 984 Personnel and other owners, as well as an order requiring the owner to vacate and sell his unit.
At that point the owner requested another adjournment and provided a vague letter from a doctor stating that the owner was unwell and needed rest, and for that reason could not attend any court appearances for a period of 2 to 3 months. The letter did not provide any evidence of the owner’s alleged, but still unsubstantiated, heart condition. The owner also argued that it was unjust for the court to conduct the hearing as the owner was not able to file any responding material since he had not paid the costs relating to the earlier court appearances. He claimed that those costs orders were obtained on the basis of lies by the corporation’s legal counsel and that he was unable to pay the costs as the corporation’s lien on his unit prevented him from re-financing his unit.
This time the owner’s request for an adjournment was declined on the basis that the doctor’s letter did not substantiate the owner’s alleged medical condition. The court also rejected his submission that it was unfair to proceed without his responding material, as the judge who made the order had provided the owner with a thorough explanation of the risks of not paying the outstanding costs. The corporation was not required to remove the lien to allow him to refinance and the court concluded that the owner would probably not have paid the costs even if the lien was removed.
In each of the court appearances, the corporation provided uncontested evidence of the owner’s continuing and escalating abusive and threatening conduct. Based on this evidence, the court:
- granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the owner from contacting, communicating, harassing or coming within 25 feet of PSCC 984 Personnel;
- found the owner to be in contempt of court as he had deliberately and wilfully breached the three previous interim court orders; and
- ordered the owner to list the unit for sale and accept any reasonable bona fide offer within specified time frames, failing which the corporation can apply to the court for an order of possession of the unit and sell it.
Ordering a condominium owner to vacate and sell the unit is a drastic measure and a remedy of last resort, after all else has failed. First the corporation’s manager must send out letters demanding that the owner cease and desist from engaging in the abusive conduct. If the owner fails to comply, then the corporation will have to go to court seeking an order prohibiting the owner from engaging in the abusive behavior. If the court order is breached, then the corporation will have to go back to court with evidence of the breach and apply for an order requiring the owner to vacate and sell the unit. The corporation will need to demonstrate that the abusive owner has engaged in persistent, intolerable behavior that has deprived the other owners and/or the corporation’s directors, employees, managers and agents of a sense of safety and security. Unfortunately for the corporation this is not a speedy process.