Defamation in Condos: An Update

legal case.jpgThere has been a lot of talk this week about defamation in condos. Most of the interest comes from a decision released in Ottawa last week. A judge has ordered Yahoo! and Yahoo! Canada to disclose information that a condominium needs to determine the identity of a person responsible for sending defamatory emails to its owners and residents. The emails apparently accused the directors of receiving kickbacks.

The part of the decision that is most important for condominiums is paragraph 17:

Second, the Condominium Corporation has a duty under s. 17(3) of the Condominium Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, c. 19 to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that the owners, the occupiers of units, the lessees of the common elements and the agents and employees of the corporation comply with this Act, the declaration, the by-laws and the rules.”  In York Condominium Corporation No. 163 v. Robinson2017 ONSC 2419 (CanLII), Morgan J. ordered the respondent to cease and desist from uncivil or illegal conduct that violates the Condominium Act, 1998 or the condominium corporation’s rules, and to refrain from abusing, harassing, threatening or intimidating any employee or representative of the corporation.  In doing so, Morgan J. found the application to be “a step, reasonably designed” by the condominium corporation in that case to enforce the rules and to protect its workers from harassment.  (at para. 14.)  I find that the present application is a step, reasonably taken by the Condominium Corporation to ensure that its board members and employees are not subjected to statements which I have found are capable of being found to be defamatory.

If you want to read the full case, you can read it for yourself here:  https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2017/2017onsc4385/2017onsc4385.pdf

Inappropriate, hurtful, or inaccurate statements are common in condominiums. Such statements don’t necessarily equate to defamation. Defamation is any communication that tends to lower the esteem of the subject in the minds of ordinary members of the public. It depends a great deal on the facts. It is also interesting to note that the person claiming they were the subject of defamation does not have to prove that the other person intended to defame him or her.

Based upon the above case, it seems that condo boards must take reasonable steps to ensure that the owners or others do not defame the condominium, directors, or managers. Given previous cases about harassment, and the fact that defamatory comments can also be considered harassment in some cases, it is possible that the condominium has a duty to protect owners and occupants from defamation as well. Only time will tell.

Here are some other posts that you might find interesting:

https://ontcondolaw.com/2015/09/10/former-directors-six-year-battle-with-condo-continues/

https://ontcondolaw.com/2017/04/23/if-you-cant-say-something-nice/

https://ontcondolaw.com/2016/05/25/condo-harassment-is-it-real/