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Protecting Directors and Residents Against Harassment in Condos: Existing Legislative Measures + Future Considerations (Pt. 5/6)

Volunteering on a condo Board is already a big task and unpaid endeavour, and property management companies often struggle when planning Annual General Meetings to get residents running as potential candidates. The role of directing is quite demanding of its elected members, and the last thing that any condo community needs is a hostile environment that prevents residents from running or Directors from lasting due to harassment in condos. Directors, in turn, have an obligation to protect not only those working in the condominium against violence and harassment, but also their condo’s residents. Let’s explore the existing legislative measures and future considerations that tackle harassment in condos 

The first four articles in our series on incivility in condos taught us what harassment and violence are, how they affect Condoland (including the industry and its residents), and what is and can be done about it. After the shocking shooting of Directors and their families at a luxury condo in Vaughan (December 2023), the problem that we all already knew existed was thrust into the spotlight. Somewhere along the way, we lost our footing and stopped adequately protecting our Directors, who serve as volunteers on their board. 

Protecting Directors Against Harassment in Condos: Current Challenges + Future Legislative Considerations

For as long as we can remember, we’ve heard the running joke to give our condolences rather than congratulations when Directors were successfully elected to serve on their condomiunum’s Board, because it’s always been known what a thankless job volunteering could be. We knew, but how much of the extent and impact of this issue did we really realize?

The current system is failing Directors the most, when they are often the most vulnerable group in the condo sphere. Unlike condo managers, Directors can’t request a change of workplace, as they are often committed owners in the condo corporation. They are not protected by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), because they are not compensated for their role and are therefore not considered workers. 

Directors live, or at least try to, in the space where neighbours may easily approach them in inappropriate ways, and sometimes with vexatious, harassing, or violent behaviours. They’re accosted in the common elements, or even confronted by uninvited guests at their unit’s door - and they can’t even take refuge their place of residence because their address is considered a record of the corporation and must be released to other residents upon submission of a Records Request to the condo’s property management company or Board.

A Personal Case: A Director’s Experience with Stalking, Threats, Defamation, Physical Violence, and Harassment in Condos

“Mike F” (a former condominium Director) was personally affected by harassing behavior in his corporation, and shared his experience with us. “I have witnessed both harassment and violence in my condominium community and been a recipient of harassment myself. I have seen abhorrent behaviour from residents towards both the board of directors and the management staff. Examples of such are: residents spying on staff and directors, making false accusations publicly, verbal and anonymously written threats, and even cases of physical violence. These actions have caused me a great deal of duress and have made me uncomfortable to such an extent that I have now resigned from my position and left my condominium residence. It deeply saddens me to bear witness to such behaviour and leaves me wondering why such behaviour exists in the condominium world.”

Nicholas Chirametli (President at City Sites Property Management) stresses the importance of remembering that “Directors are volunteers . . . [and] your average Director will be discouraged quickly from dedicating their personal time to the condominium if they are abused by fellow owners, tenants, contractors or property management. We all know that abuse in the workplace can take many forms (including verbal and physical) but there are more nuanced challenges in a workplace that is also a residence such as stalking, smear campaigns, frivolous litigation and more that Directors can and have experienced.” 

Future Legislative Considerations to Protect Directors Against Violence and Harassment in Condos: The Joint Safety and Security Legislation Committee’s Proposal to Find Balance Between the Obligation to Protect Directors vs. Owner’s Rights

Following the aforementioned shooting, The Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario (ACMO), the Toronto & Area Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI-T), and the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Canadian Chapter created “The Joint Safety and Security Legislation Committee”.

The Committee looked at the current state of the industry, particularly regarding Director safety in condominiums, and recommended that we must find a “balance between the rights of owners to be able to participate fairly and equally in the democratic process within their community . . . VERSUS the obligations of the Corporation to protect individual, directors, staff and the Corporation's potential exposure to liability” via 1 of 3 options:

  1. Exempt the list of owners and directors from being produced under Sec. 55 of The Act,

  2. Otherwise, amend to “give owners the right to remove their information from the record of owners provided to other Owners”, or, lastly,

  3. Assign an independent 3rd party as “the ‘gate keeper’ or ‘intermediary’ for the list of owners and Board Members and their addresses for service, and no list be given directly to owners”.

The 3rd party, appointed to function as a “gate keeper” or “intermediary” for owner information (The Condominium Authority of Ontario was recommended as the ideal candidate for this) would serve several functions, including:

  1. “Ensuring that the election process . . . is fair, transparent, and with no interference by owners, directors, and management.”

  2. “Handling distribution of materials to owners (thereby removing many disputes over distrust).”

  3. Ensure email addresses are not provided to Owners, “as email addresses particularly are quite often the target for identity fraud and other online crimes such as harassment and bullying”.

  4. Vetting (mis)information “to prevent the circulation . . . of defamatory, harassing, or otherwise inappropriate information and material”.

The Impact on Directors of Misinformation, Defamation, and Verbal Harassment in Condos

The Committee’s suggestion for vetting (mis)information is particularly important, as this pervasive issue has gone unchecked and without consequence to the culprit(s) for far too long. 

Chirametli identifies that “one of the most common forms of written or verbal harassment and defamation comes from disgruntled owners that wish to see change in their Board of Directors. While healthy discourse in a democracy is necessary for the ownership at large to select their represented leaders, it becomes a problem when the people that desire this change are willing to mislead their fellow owners and arrange for character and reputational assassinations of their existing Directors.” 

“These keyboard warriors can be very dangerous to an otherwise functional and well-intentioned condominium Board of Directors. In one such condominium which we managed, a group of owners were claiming the Board President was abusing the Corporation’s budget for their personal interests. This allegation was unequivocally untrue and was verified by the condominium’s bank statements and audited financial statements. Nevertheless, these kinds of accusations distracted the Board from furthering community improvements and the Directors had to shift their attention to educating fellow owners and correcting this kind of misinformation. Often these kinds of smear campaigns can overwhelm a volunteer Board of Directors.”

“Directors should challenge these kinds of campaigns with factual and transparent communication and do so on a consistent basis. Owners need to know that their homes are being properly managed and cared for by ethical and competent leaders. Community meetings, events and regular newsletters can quickly clarify misunderstandings and better educate owners to think critically and ask important questions of both dissident factions and their elected representatives on the Board”, Chirametli concludes.

What's the Public Perception About Currently Proposed Considerations for Protecting Directors Against Harassment in Condos?

Though it certainly seems like mechanisms are starting to be proposed and considered, the general public is still not as aware of these initiatives as they could be. 

When asked about his knowledge of whether protections have been proposed since the Vaughan shooting, Mike F. stated that he was “not aware of any initiatives to protect directors since the Vaughan shooting. . . Events such as these make me feel personally unsafe volunteering on a condo board, and despite no longer being a director, I feared for the safety of my fellow board members who had chosen to remain on the Board despite the risk. It baffles me to think that anyone would take another’s life, especially when that person is a volunteer.”

Mike added that “while there may be ones that I’m not aware of, the mere fact that I’m not aware of them proves that they are not as effective as they need to be. I think that the government should be stepping in and legislating additional protection for board members. For starters, I think there should be steeper punishments for cases of harassment against board members. I believe this would help deter residents from initiating acts of harassment, which may interrupt the pattern of vexatious behaviour that for some reason appears to form in the residence of condominiums.”

“Furthermore, I think that there needs to be more public awareness and education about the type of harassment and violence that directors are enduring. At the end of the day, this is a volunteer position, and those volunteers should have the right to be properly shielded and protected from violence and harassment”, Mike believes.

No protection under workplace laws(OHSA): 

However, some people mistakenly believe that Directors, like condo managers and other staff, are protected by workplace safety laws. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Deborah Howden (Condo Lawyer and Partner at Shibley Righton LLP) reminds us that, because “condominium directors do not typically receive monetary compensation, they are excluded from the worker protections under [the Occupational Health and Safety Act (‘OHSA’)”. 

Some Protection Under The Condo Act and Some Case Law 

That noted, there are other protections available to directors who are subject to harassment and violence in the condominium. The most often-used protection is found in the Condominium Act 1998, Section 117, which prohibits dangerous activities and nuisances:”

117 (1) No person shall, through an act or omission, cause a condition to exist or an activity to take place in a unit, the common elements or the assets, if any, of the corporation if the condition or the activity, as the case may be, is likely to damage the property or the assets or to cause an injury or an illness to an individual.

(2) No person shall carry on an activity or permit an activity to be carried on in a unit, the common elements or the assets, if any, of the corporation if the activity results in the creation of or continuation of,

(a)  any unreasonable noise that is a nuisance, annoyance or disruption to an individual in a unit, the common elements or the assets, if any, of the corporation; or

(b)  any other prescribed nuisance, annoyance or disruption to an individual in a unit, the common elements or the assets, if any, of the corporation.”

Furthermore, Howden explains that there's a “growing and developing body of case law which confirms that persistent emails and telephone calls, intimidation, public disparagement and name-calling, and aggression all constitute prohibited activities under section 117, including when directors are the targets of this behaviour”. For example, “compliance with section 117(1)  of the Condominium Act is enforced through an application to Superior Court. A corporation’s declaration or rules may also have anti-harassment prohibitions that could be enforced through the CAT under section 117(2). Depending on the severity of the behaviour, there could also be Criminal Code remedies available.” 

Should the Jurisdiction of The Condominium Authority Tribunal (The CAT) Be Extended to Include Cases of Harassment in Condos?

When asked about whether The CAT should extend its jurisdiction to include harassment simpliciter, for Howden, “the jury is still out.  For the moment, the courts still provide an expedited process for dealing with harassment.  As an example, last year, I was able to get an emergency application and compliance order with full costs within two weeks against a tenant who was spreading terrible hate in the condominium building.  The CAT would have to develop its processes in order to respond as quickly to such emergency situations.”  

How Are Residents Protected Against Harassment in Condos?

When it comes to condo Residents, Howden confirms that “section 117 of the Condominium Act and the other remedies described for directors just above would also apply to a situation involving harassment between two residents.  In addition, even though harassment is not a prescribed jurisdiction under the CAT’s mandate, the Tribunal has previously  found that if harassing conduct is prohibited under the Corporation’s governing documents, the conduct may fall within the CAT’s jurisdiction as behaviour that constitutes a nuisance, annoyance or disruption”.

“In a recent CAT case, for example, an owner engaged in harassing behaviour towards another resident, which included insults, stalking, public disparagement and intimidation.  The Tribunal accepted jurisdiction as the conduct was contrary to a number of the Corporation’s rules.  The Tribunal ordered the owner to stop the harassment and to pay the corporation $10,457.57 in costs.” 

Committing to Change in Conclusion: Coming Together to Protect Directors and Residents Against Harassment in Condos

We know that Directors deserve better protections as they serve their condo communities, and we’re relieved to see some changes on the horizon from both organizations and individuals within our collective condo community. Likewise, condo Residents must also be protected from violence and harassment in their living space, and condo communities must turn their focus onto creating a safe space for all those living, volunteering, and working in the corporation.

As we near the last post of the series regarding incivility in condos, we’d like to remind everyone of an important call to action. Stratastic has launched a Condo Safety advocacy group for this issue, where we can share experiences and advice, as well as team up to get the security of our condo sphere back. 

Why should you join the Condo Safety Advocacy Group? Click to expand.

👤 Become a member and get full access to the Condo Safety advocacy page, including our forum feature.

🗣️ Participate in the forum - share your thoughts and lend your voice to encouraging others so they don’t have to deal with challenges alone!

🗒️ Share resources! If you know of valuable resources to share, or can create and contribute something unique of your own, please do! It takes a village to raise awareness for this issue, and a collective condo community to combat the current climate of incivility in condos. 

Let’s come together to prevent harassment and violence from continuing to take over our condos, and bring back respect. Let’s support Directors, Residents, and each other to ensure that we commit to creating a safer condo environment for all Condoland citizens.

And let’s start now.

-Stratastic Inc.

P.S. Join our collective condo community now by becoming a member of Stratastic, and access our platform full of condo resources, supportive members, and more… together, we can help each other put a stop to incivility in condos now!


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