The Condominium Authority Tribunal recently granted an order under Rule 4.5 of its Rules of Practice for the first time since its inception. Rule 4.5 states:
If the CAT finds that a Party has filed a vexatious Application or has participated in a CAT Case in a vexatious manner, the CAT can find that Party to be a vexatious litigant and dismiss the proceeding as an abuse of the CAT’s process. The CAT may also require that a Party found to be vexatious to obtain permission from the CAT to file any future Cases or continue to participate in an active Case.
In Yeung v. MTCC 1136, the Tribunal dismissed two Applications and considered whether an order under Rule 4.5 was warranted. In coming to its decision, the Tribunal considered the history of the Applicant’s conduct and noted:
- The Applicant submitted several cases where it was obvious he could not succeed. This was exemplified by multiple cases where he requested a penalty that the Tribunal had no authority to impose.
- The Applicant brought Applications that are brought for purposes other than the assertion of legitimate rights. This included recent applications for minor or clerical issues (for which the corporation should be afforded a legitimate amount of tolerance without rendering the records inadequate) and requests for substantial penalties that have no basis of success.
- The Applications rolled forward grounds and issues from prior cases, either by submitting Applications for the same records with slightly altered grounds or by identifying minor errors in different records.
- The frequency of new Applications increased in 2020. The Applicant filed a record-setting eight cases since the Tribunal was created: one in 2018, two in 2019, and six cases in 2020.
The Tribunal concluded:
…I find that there has been a pattern of conduct by the Applicant that creates a burden on the Tribunal, and unfairly requires the Respondent to participate in cases with little merit. I conclude that there is sufficient reason to believe that without intervention, this would continue. Therefore, I grant the Respondent’s motion to require the Applicant to obtain permission from the Tribunal before filing any future applications.
The Condominium Act, 1998 is intended to be consumer-protection legislation and as a creature of that statute, the Tribunal was created for owners to resolve specific disputes in a cost-effective and accessible manner. Evidently, the Tribunal did not come to this decision lightly: it recognized that the order would “limit the Applicant’s right to access the Tribunal” and “remove the opportunity to resolve disputes informally in the Tribunal’s negotiation stage”. However, access to the Tribunal is not an absolute right. A fine balance must be struck between allowing owners to redress legitimate concerns and preventing Applicants from misusing the Tribunal’s process at the expense of other owners.