When you purchase a condominium unit, you have certain ownership rights when the deal is completed. But you also have certain responsibilities, too – many of them to your fellow residents.
In a case called York Condominium Corporation No. 301 v. James, 2014 ONSC 2638 (CanLII), the question arose whether the condominium corporation could oust a unit owner for various disruptive and anti-social behaviour stemming from her mental health issues.
This took place against the backdrop of a Toronto condominium development, where the woman owned a unit. Over the course of living there, she had engaged in all sorts of troubling and aggressive behaviour, including:
threatening, verbally abusing and acting violently towards condo staff and residents while in the common elements portions of the building; physically assaulting the property manager and following her around the building; behaving in an inappropriate and bizarre manner, including randomly laughing, staring at owners and their children, and glaring at others; sleeping in the stairwells of the building on occasion; leaving refuse in the common elements hallways; and posting unauthorized notes, pictures and other items in the common elements area.
In light of this behaviour, on a previous occasion the condominium corporation had obtained an order to the effect that the woman was restrained from entering on the common elements areas, except for the purposes of going in and out of her unit. She was also prevented from having any verbal or physical contact with other residents or employees of the condominium, and from coming within 25 feet of the condominium management office, and from any of the individuals who had provided evidence in the court proceedings. Also, she was restrained from disturbing the comfort and quiet enjoyment of other unit owners and their guests.
However, the woman did not comply; In fact, after the order had been made, the unit owner started two fires in her unit, placed human feces in a newspaper and stuffed it in the mail slot of another unit owner, and exposed herself to two people while naked, and made obscene gestures involving her genitals. She also failed to adhere to the restrictions on her communicating or coming within a specified distance of certain condo management. As a result of safety concerns by other owners, the condominium corporation was paying $400 per day to hire security specifically in relation to the woman.
The woman was ordered by the court to undergo a mental health examination, but did not do so.
The condo corporation came back before the court for further relief, including an order under the Condominium Act to force the woman to vacate so that the unit could be sold.
After making certain orders to address her obvious mental health issues, the court granted the order; the woman was compelled to list the unit for sale and vacate it within 90 days. The court also ordered that in the meantime she was to stop her harassing and disruptive behaviour in the common elements areas.
In doing so, the court observed that it was evident that prior orders had not been enough to control the woman’s unacceptable, antisocial and disruptive behaviour. That conduct amounted to a serious health and safety risk for other residents, visitors and the condominium corporation itself. Even though it was an extraordinary remedy, there was no other option but to order the unit vacated and sold. The court said:
Unfortunately, the respondent suffers from a mental illness. I appreciate that it will be a hardship for her to vacate the unit and have the unit sold. However, it must be borne in mind that while the applicant is a corporate body, it is the men, women and children who live and work in the building and their visitors and guests who have been confronted with behaviour that ranges from disturbing to disgusting to threatening. I do not see remedies short of an order vacating the unit and ordering a sale as sufficient to address the uncontested breaches of the Act and the rules of the condominium corporation.
This case raises an interesting question about the interplay between individual unit owners’ rights, and the collective rights of residents to quietly enjoy their respective units. What are your thoughts?