"Troublemakers" and "Traitors"

Letter: I am a director in a high rise condo and I think that the rest of the board is behaving unethically, having repairs done that don't need to be done and the manager gets bids for work to be done from contractors that work together to present a ridiculously unrealistic range of prices. The way it works is that the manager, with the encouragement of the board, arranges for these quotes so that the contractor that they like unavoidably sends in the best bid and wins. So we're stuck with these contractors and of course they always recommend more work. I suspect kickbacks but how to prove this? The worst part in all of this is when I tried to talk to them about this, they told me I was a "traitor and a trouble maker." They are all putting a lot of pressure on me and told me that if I talked to anyone about this "ridiculous nonsense," they would put the lawyer on my case for defamation.

— February 2011, Ottawa

Answer: [This letter and the answer constitute an abbreviation of a long correspondence with the owner. Readers may want to consult the new section on Misuse of Funds, Kickbacks and Fraud, which was added after receiving many similar letters. As well, you may want to read other letters from owners under the category of  Issues of Money. Or, yet, consult other letters in the previous section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined. Many of the letters in Issues of Conflict of Interest are also relevant.]  I suggest that you keep a very good record of what is going on. I would even go so far as to suggeste that you record these meetings, if you can (although I am not sure about the legality of this advice and I would advise discussing this with a litigation lawyer)... and keep copies of these bids to build a case. At a later stage, you may be able to obtain a court compliance order under section 135 of the Condo Act, “Oppression Remedy.” But I am really not qualified to discuss this in depth. What never ceases to amaze me is that there is no government oversight over what goes on in condos nor improvements to the Condo Act to prevent such situations. Yet, these situations are not isolated cases.

Letter: I have lived in this condo for a year and really like it. The place is clean, there is a great staff and for a small tip they even come to help with carrying your groceries or to change lightbulbs. And  the President lives on my floor and tells me all kinds of interesting stories; he is really working hard.  We also have this very funny newsletter full of recipes and jokes and travel ideas.  But a group of troublemakers is having a petition signed to replace this Board.  Why would I want this and I refused to sign and told the Manager and President about it right away. What should I do to help the President?

— February 2011, Ottawa area

Answer: [This is the first of five letters exchanged with this owner. The requisitionists are reasonably asking to have annual AGMs, audited financial statements, and a reserve fund study--none of which has yet occurred in this 4-year-old condo. They also want a reduction in the more than plentiful staff because this is too costly an item and this staff is basically there to work for tips!] I know that you will not like my answer but I want you to seriously consider it because the well-being of your investment in this condo is in serious danger. The reason why you don't agree with the requisitionists is that you occupy a priviledged position in your condo: You are friends with the president, you get a great deal of information from him/her, your floor is kept clean, and you are helped by the staff who should instead be working for the entire condo. Your condo has no budget, the fees are already too high, and you really don't know where monies are going. [....]  Don't sign the petition because, in your case, this president will learn of it. But do attend the requisitioned meeting and vote for these petitioners because they are not troublemakers: They understand what is going on. A cute newsletter does not replace communication from the board and owners' rights, as per the Condo Act, to have AGMs, etc. Added for Readers: Eventually, the board was voted out but with great difficulty. This is a good example of how an owner does not see the problems that are afflicting his/her condo corporation. Indeed, condo owners' perception of problems largely depends on where they are located in a building, their involvement, and their knowledge. (See the last letter in this section.)

Letter: I have a problem with noise coming from a rattling sound in my fan coils or heating/AC. I have documented it on a daily basis and submitted this to the manager after she failed to respond the first time around. So when I presented this to her, she got very angry and gave a copy to the board and the president wrote me to tell me to stop being a troublemaker and stop harassing the manager. I never harassed her and have been very polite. We just can't sleep and we have headaches. It has been 3 months and they also wrote that I am the only one complaining about this. I mean, I can't believe this rationale for refusing me this service because, of course I am the only one complaining, this is in my suite! and the fan coil belongs to the corporation and is its responsibility. This is affecting our health. How long is it reasonable to wait? And is it acceptable to be accused of being a troublemaker for a reasonable request? 

— February 2011, 401 area east of Toronto

Answer: No, you are being perfectly reasonable and within your rights. Continue documenting this noise. Have you also thought of recording it and of renting a sound meter as a further documentation? You may want to have a visit from the Health Department of your municipality. I suspect that, if this manager and this president are thusly responding, there must be other problems in your condo. Try to get a better picture of what is going on. If all fails, you are probably in a position to seek a court compliance order under section 135 of the Condo Act, "Oppression Remedy," because what is going on is a failure to comply with the Act in Ontario. But you will need to seek legal advice, and this can be difficult because you will not be able to have recourse to the law firm that deals with your condo. I know that this does not make sense but, generally, condo lawyers stand by managers and boards of directors and some feel that listening and helping an owner against them represents a conflict of interest.

Letter: I have tried desperately to tell our board and management that we have to look into our garage deterioration and they refuse to listen. I even asked for a copy of an alleged report by engineers and they have refused to show it to me. The report allegedly says that there is nothing wrong with the garage but why is cement falling down all over, why is it full of cracks, and why does water come in after a rain? I tried to requisition a meeting and all owners received a letter telling them that I am a “troublemaker”. What can I do?

— August 2009, Toronto

Answer updated January 2012 for readers: So far, I have received over 30 letters of persons who are “troublemakers” like you. You all have in common the fact that you are trying to force the board/management to face a problem. They label you as such and use you as a scapegoat to deflect the blame. You are a whistle blower and there should be legislation to protect whistle blowers. (In your case, from your description, your garage does have problems that have to be attended before they get worse and costlier.)

I suggest that you read the sections on Requisitioned Meetings in this website and Right of  Access to Condo Records. Indeed, you do have the right to see this report and even to obtain a copy for a reasonable fee. As well, the fact that they sent a letter around should not deter you from requisitioning a meeting, although I admit, your task may be a bit difficult and unpleasant.

You may actually want to seek a legal opinion as to whether this letter that was sent to all owners constituted some form of character defamation (I am not sure of the legal term here). But, before you do so, please consult other readers' letters regarding "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

Letter: [This letter is from an owner who had to resign from the board after the president of the board wrote to all residents explaining to them that this board member was involved in activities that were not in the best interest of the corporation--none of these activities have actually occurred.] The letter stated that I was a bad neighbour because I was trying to "make trouble among neighbours" when actually all I was doing was to try to prevent the board from wasting our money and trying to have the manager do her job with issues of maintenance. Owners were given these allegations [deleted] and residents were warned against talking to me."

— February 2011, Ontario

Letter: Some troublemakers are requesting a meeting because the management is not  doing anything, they write, for their noise issues.  This is unfair because my floor is very quiet. How can they complain for nothing because this is not a problem that affects all units?

— February 2011, Mississauga, ON

Answer: It often happens that people living in a same condo do not experience the same problems and noise is one of them. This does not negate the problem, even if only one owner suffers from it: The manager's duty is to try to remedy it, whatever the problem is. Think of it this way: One day it may be you at the  other end of the stick, experiencing a problem, that this manager may then not want to deal with because he/she has a history of getting away with this with impunity. In fact, in a same condo, some owners may have very bad experiences with a manager while others receive only good treatment. This is an issue that a good board can sort out. These people are not necessarily troublemakers: They are simply exercising their right to obtain a redress.