A Toronto condominium community recently endured a tenant from hell. In MTCC 1025 v. Hui, residents, security staff and contractors were subject to a tenant’s threatening and disturbing behaviour, including:
- Threatening a security guard with a knife;
- Exposing himself and performing lewd acts in the common elements of the condominium building;
- Attempting to force his way into a resident’s car and a contractor’s van;
- Defacing unit doors and nearby walls;
- Setting up a chair and blocking the entrance of the building, not allowing residents to enter (so they had to enter via the loading dock), and the list goes on.
The owner of the unit cooperated with the corporation from the outset. She delivered an eviction notice to the tenant and applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an urgent hearing, but the request for an expedited hearing was denied. The corporation brought an application for a compliance order against the tenant and owner. At some point in the interim, the tenant was arrested and therefore no longer on site.
The court had no trouble granting a compliance order against the tenant for breaching section 117 of the Condo Act (which prohibits any dangerous activity that is likely to damage property or cause injury), the corporation’s declaration, rules and the Occupational Health and Safety Act when misconduct was levelled at staff.
But who was responsible for the corporation’s costs of the application?
The court found that the owner and tenant were responsible for the corporation’s costs of $10,000. The corporation’s rules made the owner responsible for costs incurred by the corporation as a result of a breach by the owner or occupants of the unit. The corporation had to incur costs because of the breaches of the rules by the tenant.
The court had sympathy for the owner because she fully cooperated with the condominium and took steps to have her tenant removed and paid out of pocket for added security. But the court also considered that it would be unfair to the other owners of units to be responsible for the costs of the application which was required to compel the tenant to comply.
A successful condo is entitled to recover its legal fees in a compliance matter, once the court has decided that the compliance order is called for. The corporation did not obtain an award of damages but did obtain an award of costs against the owner, so it is possible that the “additional actual costs” of obtaining the order may still be added to the owner’s common expenses.
This case is a reminder that unit owners are ultimately responsible for their occupant’s conduct even when the owner cooperates and takes reasonable steps to obtain compliance. This framework protects other innocent owners from being burdened with legal costs because of one bad resident. Unit owners should expect to take full responsibility for their occupants and should seriously consider the consequences when leasing their units and vetting tenants.
It’s also a reminder to condominium corporations to involve owners early when occupant misconduct first arises and to provide the owners with the information they need to take steps to evict their tenant. There are compliance cases where owners have been relieved from paying costs or cost awards reduced because the corporation did not inform owners of misconduct early or did not supply full particulars to the owner to take appropriate steps. These corporations had to collect their costs from the tenants without the added security of a registered lien against a unit.