The CAT's Emerging Role in Harassment Disputes

By Anthony Ing
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As hosts of virtual meetings for condominiums, we've had a front-row seat to the blown tempers and long-standing interpersonal problems that often surface during these gatherings. While we catch only a glimpse of the incivility or toxicity that can take place at the condos we serve, property managers frequently share anecdotes with us of the relentless harassment directed at them or the board.

Traditionally, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has been a venue for resolving condo disputes, including cases involving harassment. However, the pandemic-induced backlog and a general reluctance of the Court to tackle condominium disputes, often viewed as mere internal squabbles between neighbors that lack public interest, have made the courts a less dependable option for addressing condo cases.

In 2021, the mandate of the CAT expanded to include disputes about nuisances, annoyances or disruptions involving noise, odour, light, vibration, smoke and vapour, as well as nuisance and related indemnification provisions in condominium governing documents. However, whether harassment fell under prescribed nuisances within the Tribunal's jurisdiction remained unclear.

A Tale of Two Cases

Two recent cases demonstrated that the CAT has jurisdiction over harassment provided that the condo corporation involved in the case deals with the issue through their governing documents.

In the case of York Condominium Corporation No. 444 v. Ryan, the CAT established that harassment can indeed encompass conduct that constitutes a nuisance, annoyance, or disruption. In the case, the CAT acknowledged that while harassment is not a prescribed and prohibited activity under the CAT’s new mandate, if harassing conduct is defined and prohibited in a condo's governing documents, such as a corporation's rules, the CAT may have jurisdiction to handle harassment disputes.

In this particular case, Ms. Ryan engaged in persistent verbal abuse and harassment toward a neighbor, condominium staff, and management representatives. This included hurling derogatory and offensive insults, posting defamatory notices, and engaging in stalking and intimidation. This behaviour was in contravention of provisions explicitly set out in the Rules of YCC 444.

The CAT ordered Ms. Ryan to cease her harassment of the neighbor and the corporation's staff, as set out in the rules of the condominium and subsection 117 (2) of the Act, additionally mandating her to pay the condo corporation $10,457.57 in costs.

Additionally, in another notable recent Toronto case, Chakravarty v. MTCC 795 et al., the significance of having governing documents that explicitly address harassment came to the forefront. The Tribunal dismissed the harassment claim citing the absence of governing documents that specifically address harassment.

The Takeaway

A key takeaway from these recent CAT cases is that Tribunal can deal with harassment disputes when the condo corporation's governing documents contain pertinent provisions dealing with harassment. As a note, for a dispute to be within the Tribunal's jurisdiction, it must not result in physical injury, illness, or property damage. Condominium corporations should carefully review their governing documents to ensure they have comprehensive rules in place to effectively tackle harassing conduct and be prepared to handle such behavior when it arises.