What would you do if you had the world’s worst neighbor? What if your next-door condo owner was so abrasive in her or his interactions with other owners in the building, that all efforts toward civil accord were futile? What if this owner had a lengthy history of physical assaults on residents; of intimidating neighbors with their aggressive dog; of repeatedly using racist and homophobic slurs against other residents; of multiple acts of mischief and property destruction within the building? Would you grin and bear it? Would you sell your condo and move away? Or would you go on an offensive to try and get the objectionable neighbor to leave? Not in a vigilante fashion, but through legitimate process in the courts. And is it even possible to utilize the courts to force neighbors out who consistently disregard laws intended to provide for the greatest enjoyment for all?
A recent B.C. Condo Case
Recently, the courts in BC dealt with just such a situation. In February of this year, the BC Superior Court adjudicated the matter of Strata Plan LMS 2768 v Jordison. This case involved a mother who owned a residential unit in a condominium complex, and her son who lived with her. The two had been repeatedly accused of disruptive behavior including excessive noise, abusive language, uttering threats, and harassment. The condominium corporation had assessed financial penalties of some $30,000 against these individuals, but the penalties had not had the desired effect of deterring the two from their disruptive behaviors. Finally, the condominium corporation, and certainly the other residents, had had enough. The condo corporation brought an application for an order requiring the disruptive owner to sell her unit and move from the complex. The application was granted. After a series of challenges in the BC Superior Court and the BC Court of Appeal, the troublemaking owners finally sold their unit and moved out.
The Protection of Condo Bylaws
Condominium bylaws are created to establish acceptable standards of behavior, thereby enabling members to live in peaceful accord with their neighbors, free from harassment and abuse or prohibited activities. Home owners have similar protections, albeit to a lesser extent, through the enforcement of municipal bylaws prohibiting things such as excessive noise, unsightly yards, and pet bylaws. Those who enforce both condo bylaws and municipal bylaws are there to ensure that disruptive neighbors are not permitted, through their harassment and abuse or prohibited activities, to disrupt the integrity of either the common scheme offered in condominium living, or the close proximity of suburban lifestyle. When things get bad enough, it seems the courts are willing to intervene, draconian as it might be, by ordering that the unruly neighbor list their property, and find another neighborhood in which to be a nuisance.
Alberta’s Condo Legislation
Although there are no Alberta cases on this point, and only a handful from across Canada, it appears that Alberta has legislation in place which could allow this measure to be ordered here, at least for condominium owners. The Court of Queen’s Bench would rely on a number of provisions in Alberta’s Condominium Property Act in hearing such an application. Getting to this point would generally be a step-wise progression, starting with monetary sanctions imposed by the condominium board for failure to comply with bylaws (s. 35 of the Act). Next, the board would move to the enforcement of the sanctions, proceeding through court processes to recover the sanctions owed, much like a person would do in recovering an outstanding debt (s. 36 of the Act). Finally, if the previous two steps had been unsuccessful in curbing the behavior, the condominium board would seek a court ordered remedy.
Authority of the Courts
The court’s authority for this final step comes from s. 67 of the Act where the court, satisfied that improper conduct has taken place, can either “direct that the person carrying on the improper conduct cease carrying on the improper conduct” (s. 67(2)(b), or “give any other directions or make any other order that the court considers appropriate in the circumstances” (s. 67(2)(f). The authority to order a condo owner to sell and move appears to come from this last provision, kind of a catch-all of remedies, giving Justices broad authority to do whatever is necessary to stop the improper conduct being complained of.
It remains to be seen whether this legislation would stand up to scrutiny in Alberta. But it’s likely only a matter of time before a condo owner crosses the line with the board or her/his neighbors, and an application is brought to order the individual sell their unit and get out.