Rent Control Bulletin (September 2015)
Dangerous Behaviour by Condo Owner: An Effective Litigation Strategy is Crucial
What is the legal obligation of a condominium corporation when an owner or occupant persistently engages in behaviour that endangers others? What if there are concerns that the individual’s mental health is contributing to the dangerous behavior? This is the situation that a London condo Board of Directors was recently confronted with.
In this recent case, the Board and the courts took a “measured but progressive approach”, to address the dangerous behaviour of the owner. The Board was given a series of court orders in just over two months (see endorsements at these links Justice Hockin June 18th, Justice Grace July 7th, Justice Grace July 17th). The court found the owner’s behavior was “erratic, threatening, profane and occasionally violent.” The behavior escalated over a period of several months and actually increased in severity after the Court issued an order prohibiting the owner from engaging in such conduct. Ultimately, it became clear to the court that the owner continued to behave “in a horrifying and disturbing manner”; that she had “not complied with a single court order”; and, that the Board was therefore entitled to have her forcibly removed that the unit be sold.
The remedy of a forced sale is extraordinary and, while the court found that the compliance application “was necessarily brought and is well founded,” the court raised concerns about the owner’s mental health and capacity. The court asked the Board to take some additional procedural steps prior to granting the order for forced sale. When it became clear that the behaviour was continuing and that the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee would not assume management of the owner’s property, the court issued the orders the Board asked for, including an order that the owner pay the corporation’s costs of the proceeding.
Each case is unique and individual factors will play a role in determining an appropriate strategy, but the Condominium Act, 1998 is clear: the corporation cannot tolerate dangerous conditions its property. The board is obliged to take all reasonable steps to ensure that individuals comply with the Act and the corporation could face civil liability if it permits a dangerous condition to exist.
It is crucial for boards and property managers to be proactive when faced with dangerous and persistent behaviour at the property. Not only is this a requirement under the Act, but it is prudent to manage and minimize the corporation’s liability risks. The action taken should be part of a measured and progressive litigation strategy; particularly if there are any concerns about an individual’s mental health or capacity. In this case, the corporation worked closely with legal counsel to develop an effective litigation strategy to defuse a dangerous and volatile situation.