"Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined

Also see letters in Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens and in "Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

Letter: A couple of owners and myself have been concerned about the amount of money that is paid to some of our contractors for work that could be done by the staff. At any rate, our staff is rarely busy and it is us owners that pay. So what follows is that the president probably asks the solicitor ahead of time to say something against us at the AGM. So at the AGM when one of us makes a point, the solicitor chimes in with something about us and that takes the focus off the topic and puts the spotlight on us so the president and his fawning manager just get off the hook. The president's little group of friends that benefit from his attention to their petty issues cheer this and the solicitor then says that "owners should be careful not to harass the hard working board and manager." Then we receive a letter from the president saying in effect that if we pursue these topics, it will be brought to the attention of the solicitor and he will pursue legal action against us. It's unbelievable. We have considered moving but we also don't want to give in to corruption.

— January 2012, York Region, ON

Letter: I went to talk to the Manager about the water penetration problem I have, for the 3rd time in two months, and she said that "we'll take care of it in due time, you're the only one complaining" and I told her that this should be done as it is a health hazard due to the mold that is forming. She was furious, for no reason. Two days later I received a letter from the Board telling me in no uncertain terms to stop "harassing" the Manager and learn "to cooperate with others."

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: I asked the janitor, the manager's good friend, to please come and clean up the vomit that a drunk had left two nites ago in the garbage room on my floor. This wasn't the weekend and this wasn't done until two additional days later but right after my request, the manager phoned me and told me to stop harassing the janitor. Well I had asked him only once and never had talked to him before. So how can I be harassing him?

— February 2011, Mississauga, ON

Letter: We used to have a great recycling system with a recycling bin in the utilities room on each floor, near the garbage chute itself. Then we lost our great superintendent and the new one didn't like this system and he got his wish because the bins were removed after some city's dept complained. They complained because the superintendent is lazy and didn't clean them properly. Then that same man stopped doing a good job with the cleaning of the sauna and the health dept closed it. It's been closed for 3 months. We complained at the AGM but nothing doing. So I wrote the board of directors and was told that they would sue me for defaming the superintendent they believe is "highly qualified." Can they do this? Is this superintendent working for us or we for him?

— February 2011, Toronto

Note to Readers: Please see the fourth letter below.

Letter: I have written the board at the address they give to ask if I could have a copy of the report of the engineers that came to assess some electrical circuit problems. (I am an electrical engineer and the work they are doing is useless.) They wrote back and said it was confidential and that I should not "harass" them. I know it's not confidential and their refusal makes me even more suspicious. If a request makes them feel "harassed," they shouldn't go on the board. Business is business.

— February 2011, Toronto area

Letter: Our Board is totally under the influence of our Manager. While I understand that advising the Board is part of the role of a Manager, as you mention somewhere, I can't see how a man with no education, no experience, but very set views, and attachments to many contractors that influence him fits the bill. In fact, he and all these contractors are misleading the Board into spending money for no good reason. This money will never come back. I have written the Board about this issue and they said that I was defaming them and the Manager and would begin legal action against me if I wrote them again. Isn't the Board representing us owners? Shouldn't we be able to bring to them legitimate concerns that students in Business 101 are taught without fear of receiving a letter from the condo lawyer? And by the way, isn't this lawyer working for all of us and should a Board have the right to hide under the cover of the law, which they are interpreting very loosely, to begin with? [Please also see section on Conflict of Interest]

— February 2011, 905 area, Ontario

Letter: The people above me are very noisy and that's an understatement well into the night, and it has been well recorded in the notes of our security staff whenever I report it. Unfortunately these people above me are the cousins of a board member and when I finally wrote the manager with an attached documentation of times (that I took from your website) and duration, she told me to stop harassing them about this. This was the first time and I was well documented. Then the fellow at security received a note from the board warning him that he would be fired if he kept harassing the people above. [The remainder of this correspondence refers to what to do about the noise issue. This letter also points to a conflict of interest.]

— February 2011, London, ON

Letter: We complained to the board about the fact that the manager's husband owns the company that the superintendent works for and she protects him and pampers him and the chap does no work. I can't even understand that the board does not see this, I guess they are blind to anything that this manager does. So in no short time we received a letter from the condo lawyer threatening to sue us for defaming the manager's good name and character and he billed us for this letter. Now if we don't pay it, they will put a lien on our suite. Can they do this?

— February 2011, Greater Toronto Area

Answer: No, but they do it. First of all, the board should have been in touch with you to acknowledge your justifed complaint and discuss it with you. (I receive many similar letters from owners like you.) And if your complaint is not justified, they should politely tell you this. But if your complaint is justified, they should do something about it. A legal letter when you have merely made a complaint to your board is unethical because it is your right to complain to your board: In fact, it's your board's duty to listen to owners and hear them out. I suggest that, for the time being, you either pay for this letter in order to avoid a lien or hire a lawyer yourself. [Click here for Liens; also click on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens to read other similar letters]

Note to Readers: Generally, only boards that are dysfunctional in other areas as well respond the way this one did. It is unfortunate that the lawyer followed up in this fashion.

A lawyer who is told by a president or a manager that an owner is "defaming" them or "harassing" them should be able to recognize a red flag and ask to see what the owner wrote. He or she should suggest to the board to talk to the owner first. The solicitor should use his sense of ethics and verify if indeed an owner is "defaming" or "harassing" board and management before setting forth with a letter. Complaining to a board and raising issues do not constitute harassment. Most owners just can't afford to pay for unfair legal letters that are then charged back to them.

Words such "harassing" and "defaming" are used very liberally by vindictive and small-minded boards and managers. They are meant to scare owners who "bother" them, especially when they are not doing their job properly. Other such words are "this is a serious allegation."

Please refer to the letters in the section on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens.