Condo owner must also pay up for tenant’s disruptive behaviour, tribunal says

A recent ruling by an Ontario tribunal should serve as a warning to condo owners who rent out their units that they could be left with a big bill if they don’t take action against problem tenants. 

In a Feb. 10 decision, the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) found both a tenant and condo owner jointly responsible for what the adjudicator called the tenant’s “pattern of annoying and disruptive conduct.”

Tribunal vice-chair Michael Clifton awarded the corporation that manages the condo building near Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue more than $26,000 in damages, with $8,551.50 to be paid by the condo owner and $18,239.60 to be paid jointly by the condo owner and tenant.

“I find that the respondents … have created or permitted the creation of noise and other nuisances that disturb the comfort and quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners and residents of the condominium,” Clifton wrote in his decision.

Landlord took no steps to address complaints: tribunal

According to the decision, shortly after the tenant began renting the unit in June 2021, the condo corporation received several complaints from residents and reports from security staff. 

Reported incidents included food containers left in the hallway, which caused “foul smells and tripping hazards,” and “excessive noise” coming from the unit, including “screaming, yelling, shouting, arguing, swearing, throwing items, banging, and slamming noises.”

Complaints also included verbal abuse of condo staff and non-compliance with the building’s COVID-19 regulations.

In total, the condo corporation received reports or complaints about more than three dozen incidents.

I find that the respondents … have created or permitted the creation of noise and other nuisances that disturb the comfort and quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners and residents of the condominium.– Condominium Authority Tribunal vice-chair Michael Clifton

The tenant argued during the proceedings that he was being “singled out” because of a “personal vendetta” against him by one of the staff members. But he provided little evidence to support those allegations, Clifton wrote in his decision. Meanwhile, the condo owner barely participated in the proceedings, Clifton noted.

Based on the evidence submitted at the hearing, Clifton concluded the tenant and his co-resident were a “highly disruptive presence in the condominium.” He also accepted the condo corporation’s assertion that the condo owner took “no steps” to bring an end to the tenants’ behaviour or evict him from the property despite being informed of it on several occasions.

“The unrefuted testimony of the parties is that [the condo owner] failed to take any reasonable steps to address the issue of his tenant’s long-standing non-compliance,” the decision reads.

CBC Toronto reached out to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to inquire about whether the landlord ever submitted any documents to evict the tenant, but didn’t receive a response by publication time. 

‘They do have obligations’

The lawyer who argued the case on behalf of the condo corporation said the amount of money awarded is a warning to both landlords and tenants.

“The cost award here serves as a good example for owners and tenants alike that they do have obligations,” said Jonathan Miller, a partner with the law firm Shibley Righton LLP in Toronto.

 “Where … they don’t take appropriate steps to try to meet those obligations, they could be facing significant cost awards against them if the corporation has to take on that responsibility.”

Rodrigue Escayola, a partner with the law firm Gowling WLG who wasn’t involved in the case, agreed.

“Landlords cannot take a laissez faire approach when their tenant’s conduct is in breach of the applicable rules,” Escayola wrote in a blog post about the case. 

“A failure on a landlord’s part to actively take steps to ensure their tenants comply with the applicable rules may leave them in very hot (and costly) waters.”

Varun Sriskanda, an advocate for small landlords, says tribunal decisions that ‘unfairly’ hold landlords accountable for the problematic behaviour of their tenants could have a chilling effect. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Varun Sriskanda, a board member with the advocacy group Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario (SOLO), said tribunal decisions that “unfairly penalize” landlords for a tenant’s actions could have a chilling effect on condo owners seeking to rent out their units.

“Landlords are going to be very, very careful with who they let into their condominium units. It’s going to create stricter renting requirements within a market that’s already very difficult to rent in,” Sriskanda said.

“Landlords who have condominium units are going to ask to see references from another landlord that has a condo.”

Sriskanda said SOLO encourages landlords to “immediately take action” after learning of problematic behaviour by their tenants, including filing applications with the LTB.

However, he said landlords face a number of challenges when responding to problem tenants, particularly due to ongoing delays at the LTB.

“Even if that landlord did immediately go and take steps to evict the tenant, it’s going to take eight to 10 months to get a hearing date,” he said.

“That tenant is still allowed to live within the condominium complex and cause problematic behaviour for the entire community.”