Condo Law Digest – January 2016

Escalators Canary Wharf.jpgCouture v TSCC No. 2187, 2015 ONSC 7596
Decision Date: December 4, 2015

Ms Couture owned a unit in TSCC 2187. The building has 44 residential units, but only 32 parking spots. According to the Declaration, the parking spots are leased to owners, and cars parked in the garage must be insured, have valid license plates and be in good working order. At the end of January 2012 the Board sent Ms Couture a letter, informing her that the vehicle in her parking spot did not meet the criteria set out in the Declaration; if she failed to bring her car into good standing by the end of February, the car would be towed and the parking spot leased to another owner. The Board did not receive a response and sent a second letter, extending the deadline to March 31. When she received the second letter, Ms Couture sent the car to the shop. The Board also returned Ms Couture’s postdated monthly maintenance cheques in the amount of $780, on the grounds that they included the parking fee of $50.

At this point, reasonable attempts on both sides to sort out the issues seem to have broken down. On March 29 the Board sent a “disrespectful and dismissive” letter (Justice Myers’ words) to Ms Couture, telling her that the parking spot would be reassigned April 1 and that they considered the matter closed, and again returning her monthly maintenance cheques. Then followed (as the judge summarized): “name-calling, hyperbole, failure to listen, taking extreme positions, wasting time, money and effort, and causing themselves and each other distress.” The Board began demanding that Ms Couture pay its legal fees and added a $250 “administrative fee” to her tally of monies owed; they refused her offer to resolve the matter in mediation and placed liens against her unit, eventually totaling over $14 000 (a combination of unpaid maintenance fees, legal costs and administrative fees).

Ms Couture sued the Corporation in Sept 2013, asking that the amounts of the liens not applicable to maintenance fees be discharged, for $10 000 in damages because of the Board’s treatment of her, and for costs on a substantial indemnity basis. In the next two years, Ms Couture would pay the liens on her unit and sell it; and her husband would be accused of assault in disputes with neighbours and arrested. When this matter came before Justice Myers in 2015, he ordered that the Corporation pay Ms Couture over $15 000, including $1000 as nominal damages for oppression.

Comments: Where to begin? I’ve omitted many details for the sake of brevity. This dispute could serve as a textbook example of how conflict escalates. Some lessons learned:
1) The parking leases were not written down. This led to confusion over unit owners’ rights to spaces and conditions of use.
2) Although Justice Myers ruled in favour of Ms Couture, he stresses throughout his judgment that both parties contributed to the escalation of the conflict. (He even quotes the “ancient legal expression” that “it takes two to tango.”) This is certainly consistent with what I see as a mediator.
3) The Board’s refusal to mediate was extremely short-sighted. But don’t take it from me; here is what the judge had to say: “So much of the escalated hostilities could have been avoided had the condominium corporation engaged in mediation in response to the applicant’s notices.”

Carleton Condominium Corporation No. 22 v MacQuarrie, 2015 ONSC 7719
Decision Date: December 11, 2015

This is a dispute over costs, concluding a 25-year history between Mr. MacQuarrie and CCC 22. Mr. MacQuarrie lives in a unit owned by his mother. He is alleged to have engaged in conduct that risked the health and safety of other residents. Many of the incidents seem to have involved parking and traffic violations. In 2007 an altercation between Mr. MacQuarrie and another resident resulted in charges against the former. Mr. MacQuarrie pled guilty to some of the charges and was sentenced to a conditional sentence to be served in the community, followed by probation. He was not found to be a danger to the community. In January 2014, CCC 22 brought an application against Mr. MacQuarrie and his mother, seeking “various items of relief” and his removal from the premises if he failed to comply. The matter was adjourned so that Mr. MacQuarrie could find a lawyer. In the meantime, he was formally diagnosed with various mood and personality disorders and other disabilities. He is now under the care of a psychiatrist and following a treatment plan. There have been no further incidents.

The corporation spent nearly $22 000 in legal fees on the matter and sought the full amount of their costs. Justice Beaudoin found that the extensive application record that CCC 22 provided was not necessary, and that costs should be limited to those of “preparing a reasonable and proportionate application record.” He ordered Mr. MacQuarrie and his mother to pay $5000 within five years.

Comment: Although mediation was not “technically required” the judge hints that the parties should have tried it.

About the Image:Escalators Canary Wharf” by Gordon JolyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.