Yet another case has been released where the judge hearing the case has been very critical of the parties, especially their failure to consider mediation or act reasonably. In Couture v. Toronto Standard Condominium Corporation No 2187 (2015) a dispute arose about a parking space.
Here are the brief facts: the condominium has 44 units, but only 32 parking spaces. The declaration indicated that parking would be assigned at the “sole discretion of the Corporation.” It also required vehicles to be licensed, insured, and in good repair. The owner was fortunate enough to have been assigned a parking space when she initially purchased her unit. In 2012, the condominium revoked her rights to use the parking space as it claimed that she was not complying with the declaration because the vehicle was not in good repair or licensed. She removed the vehicle and claimed that as long as she paid the rental fee of $50.00 per month she was entitled to keep the space whether there was a vehicle using it or not.
The owner retained a lawyer and the matter quickly escalated as the parties fought over the owner’s payment of monthly fees, which included the $50.00 fee for parking. The owner sought to mediate the dispute, but the board of directors (without legal advice) declined to meet with the owner because they felt she was a “vexatous litigant” and that the “meritless matters” were determined by the board. The condominium refused to accept her cheques with the parking fee included and registered a lien against her unit. The board then levied an administrative fee due to the alleged conduct of the owner’s husband. The owner sought to arbitrate the matter, but the board did not respond. A second lien was registered for more improper charges.
The owner commenced an application against the condominium. She sought an order restoring her parking privileges, orders requiring the liens registered by the condominium to be discharged, and damages. The matter was not heard for over two years. The owner explained that her husband had been arrested because of disputes with the neighbours and that they moved out of the unit as they “no longer felt safe” because of harassment from the directors.
The judge reviewed the law and evidence and concluded that:
- Although there was no written lease, there was a contractual arrangement between the parties. While the board’s termination of her parking lease was a breach of the arrangement at the time they purported to terminate her rights, the owner did not provide evidence that her car was in compliance with the declaration so she lost her right to use the parking space.
- The liens were both invalid and clearly used to punish the owner. The owner was entitled to the return of the funds paid ($15,623.00) plus interest.
- The administrative fees levied were improper.
- The condominium ought to have agreed to participate in mediation and arbitration as required by the condominium’s by-laws and the Act.
- The condominium had acted oppressively toward the owner when it registered invalid liens, levied arbitrary fines, and refused to mediate/arbitrate. It was clear that they disregarded her interests and their responses were harsh, burdensome and oppressive.
- The owner was not entitled to damages for the alleged losses she suffered (i.e. lower sale price of the unit, physical distress) as she did not provide evidence of the losses. She also contributed to the escalated nature of the dispute. She was awarded $1,000.00 in nominal damages for the oppression finding.
This case is yet ANOTHER example of a case that never should have required court intervention. Both parties acted unreasonably and escalated the dispute unnecessarily. The judge commented on the unreasonable conduct of the parties numerous times, including:
- At paragraph 54: Rather than fixing her car, the applicant sicked her lawyer on the board to immediately allege bad faith and to make repeated threats with lengthy, self-serving, repetitive recitations that brazenly evading the key issue of whether the applicant’s car had been repaired. Her actions did not demonstrate good faith, reasonable, or neighbourly conduct either.
- At paragraph 61: While the applicant may have been overstating her rights to her parking space, she did not deserve the harsh, vindictive, burdensome treatment that she received. As noted above, had the parties gone to mediation and arbitration right away, the merits could have been addressed. Instead, the board of directors acted with arrogance and declined to follow its own internal law and the law of the province in responding as it did.
There are numerous lessons that could be learned from this case, but, in my opinion, the most important is the obligation to act reasonably when involved in a condominium dispute. This dispute ought to have been resolved by the parties during mediation, not by a judge.