Condo boards often brought into disputes between neighbours


Luis Hernandez Head SHot

A legal battle between a celebrity and his Manhattan neighbour may be a rather extreme example of a fairly common condominium dispute, says Toronto condominium lawyer Luis Hernandez.

The actor recently won an injunction requiring his neighbour to stay off of his property as part of a lawsuit launched in 2017 that accused the man of carrying out a “campaign of harassment” that began when the actor and his former spouse started $1 million renovations, reports

The judge ruled there was ample evidence to support a claim of harassment and intimidation against other residents in the building, including the co-op board president, who had submitted sworn statements to support the actor’s position.

While fact-patterns like this are less common in a typical condo dispute, issues between neighbours are nothing new, Hernandez tells

“Condos are a sort of microcosm of society, especially in large areas like Toronto,” he says. “They’re these enormous towers with hundreds of units, with residents from all sorts of socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds.”

As a result of people living in such close proximity, the likelihood of conflict increases significantly, and condo boards often have no choice but to get involved, says Hernandez, an associate with Shibley Righton LLP’s Toronto office.

“Disputes between neighbours often end up becoming a problem for the condo board by virtue of the fact that it’s happening on their property,” he says.

While such disputes are often unavoidable, the key is for condo boards to be prepared with processes and rules that mitigate them, if possible, but also allow for any disagreements to be handled appropriately.

For example, in Ontario, if a condo owner wants to make renovations to their unit, rules can set out such things as how the work will be done and when it needs to be completed, times the contractors are allowed to enter, what to do with debris and what elevators to use, Hernandez says.

“The solution is to create processes — and follow them — and hope there won’t be any issues between neighbours,” he says. “But the inevitable reality is you’ve got people in close quarters interacting with others, and there is only so much that can be done to mitigate these kinds of disputes.”

Once the disputes arise, Hernandez says a condo board should be diligent in using the resources at its disposal to try and best address the situation, including contacting their lawyer, property manager and any other third party outside the board who can assist without escalating tensions.

In the end, it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive, he adds.

“In many circumstances, it’s unavoidable for the board to get involved,” Hernandez says. “Sometimes it’s better to get involved earlier and address it head-on instead of letting it fester and getting dragged in once the situation is much worse.”

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