There’s an old adage that “a man’s home is his castle.” However, when that castle is a condominium unit, owners need to realize that they are not the exclusive ruler of their castle and that they do not have the same freedoms and level of control as the owner of a freehold property. Compromises by owners are necessary, as the condominium is regulated by the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”), as well as the declaration, by-laws and rules. In addition, the condo board has the authority to make decisions that are binding on owners. In making these decisions boards must balance the interests of individual owners with the interests of the entire condominium community.
Unfortunately, some condo owners have difficulty accepting that their freedom is curtailed and that they must abide by decisions made by others. When this happens, it can result in a nightmare for the corporation.
In a recent case, Ottawa Carleton Standard v. Friend, the court dealt with an abusive owner who had been harassing the corporation’s board members, management employees and contractors for over a decade. His conduct over the years also contravened the corporation’s governing documents and the Act. Following is a list of some of the owner’s obstinate and bullying behaviour:
- He disrupted an owners meeting and tried to take over the meeting, which resulted in the Chairperson terminating the meeting;
- He repeatedly left his boots outside the unit in the common element hallway, ignoring requests to refrain from doing so;
- He stored his kayak in his parking stall in contravention of the condominium rules and after the corporation removed the kayak, he called the police alleging that his kayak had been stolen;
- He interfered with the installation of a new smoke detector in his unit which extended the installation time and then refused to pay the increased charges incurred by the corporation as a result of his interference;
- He refused to allow the manager to enter the unit for the installation of the new smoke detector, for the semi-annual fire inspection and to inspect water stains on the ceiling of his unit;
- He forced himself onto the roof of the building when the corporation’s contractor was doing work on the roof;
- He sought to engage both the corporation’s auditor and legal counsel at the corporation’s cost over issues that he disagreed with;
- As well as repeated verbal abuse, he used physical force against the corporation’s President and others;
- He frequently disputed the board’s authority to make and carry out decisions;
- He persisted in sending copious lengthy emails (74 in one 12-month period) containing multiple unreasonable demands, as well as criticism of the board’s motives, integrity and competence; and
- He engaged in many aggressive encounters with board members and their spouses, as well as management employees and contractors.
The Judge concluded that the owner had refused “to accept the legislated authority of CC 671’s Board of Directors to make and enforce decisions which he disagrees with” and had engaged in “escalating, confrontational and aggressive misconduct”.
The Court declared that the owner’s physical and verbal aggression constituted workplace harassment of the condo manager under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as a breach of section 117 of the Act, which prohibits anyone from carrying on an activity that is likely to cause injury to an individual. The Court also granted an injunction that prohibits the owner from directly or indirectly communicating with the corporation’s employees, contractors, board members and their family members, except for e-mails to the condo manager regarding the general affairs of the corporation, in the case of emergency, making calls to the corporation’s emergency number and by writing or e-mailing the corporation’s solicitor. The corporation was also awarded its costs of just over $14,000 which may be added to the common expenses of the owner’s unit.
Although the corporation was completely successful in this court proceeding, it is interesting to note that the corporation did not ask the Court to order the owner to sell his unit. As we have reported in previous blogs, such an order has been granted by the courts in the case of particularly egregious behavior over a prolonged time period.
Some people are just not suitable for condo living and the compromises that go with it. Uncompromising owners that engage in confrontational, aggressive and threatening behaviour cannot be tolerated. The corporation has a statutory duty to enforce compliance with the corporation’s governing documents and to ensure that no unsafe activity within a unit or the common elements likely to cause harm to persons or property is permitted to continue.