Condominium corporations are required to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment on the basis of any ground identified in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”).
This duty includes promptly investigating harassment complaints and taking steps to respond to harassment on condominium property. The obligation extends to condominium boards, management, staff, owners and residents.
Condominium corporations also have a legal duty to provide accommodation up to the point of undue hardship for needs based on a Code ground. For example, a condominium may have a duty to install a ramp on the common elements, add Braille to elevator buttons, or install automatic lobby doors.
It is important to note that the duty to accommodate has two components: procedural and substantive. A condominium Board needs to consider a person’s accommodation request and provide a response within a reasonable period of time. Disregard for this procedural step, such as undue delay in responding to the request, could expose a Corporation to a discrimination claim. The substantive component of the duty to accommodate means providing appropriate accommodation after giving serious attention to the requester’s needs and considering feasible options for providing the accommodation.
The person seeking accommodation has a right to participate in the accommodation process and is responsible for providing supporting documentation, such as an opinion from a qualified medical professional on that person’s disability-related needs.
More and more condominium corporations are receiving accommodation requests or facing discrimination complaints at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “HRTO”).
A human rights policy is an important tool for condominium corporations because it can provide with an internal procedure for addressing accommodation requests and responding to discrimination or harassment complaints. The HRTO will often consider whether a condominium corporation has an internal human rights policy when making determinations on alleged discrimination.
A human rights policy should inform owners and residents of the condominium corporation’s legal responsibilities and serve as a resource for the board in responding to human rights issues. The policy should also explain the steps a condominium corporation will follow in investigating harassment complaints and the process for making accommodation requests. The policy should be formally adopted by the Board and made available to anyone affected by it.
Directors should receive a copy of the policy after their election or appointment, and the Board should regularly review it. Management and staff should be familiar with the policy, particularly, what steps need to be taken when complaints or accommodation issues arise. Recommended steps for implementing the policy include holding a human rights training session for directors, management and staff, and having everyone acknowledge that they have read and understand the policy. The human rights policy should also be easily accessible by owners and residents.
Adopting a human rights policy does not require approval of the owners. However, condominium corporations should ensure that owners and residents are aware the board adopted this policy through a newsletter announcement, the policy should be included in the package provided to new owners, and distributed at the AGM.
In preparing human rights policies, it is important to understand and draft a policy that fits the needs and reflects the culture of each individual condominium corporation. For more information about these policies, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.