We’ve all heard of that one owner who has it against the corporation and who brings repeated and multiple court cases, on what may feel like a vendetta. Is there no limit to what cases (and how many cases) the same owner can bring against their condo corporation?
The Condo Authority Tribunal (the “CAT”) recently ruled on whether a condo owner was using the tribunal vexatiously and for improper purposes and whether that owner should be prevented from bringing more cases. In this blog post, we discuss the tribunal’s power to shut down cases which are vexatious.
In the last 10 months or so a condo owner brough 8 different CAT applications with respect to condo records and disputes related to pets and parking. The condo brought a motion seeking to dismiss these cases, declare the owner a “vexatious party” and prevent him from bringing new cases without first asking for permission from the CAT.
The CAT has the power to dismiss improper cases
The CAT has the power to dismiss cases when they raise no genuine issue or where they are brought for improper purposes. This power is rarely use but is an important one to ensure that the CAT’s limited resources are used on genuine cases and to prevent parties from using the CAT to harass/oppress the other party.
Specifically, the CAT can dismiss the following cases without a hearing on the merits:
- When the case is about issues that are so minor that it would be unfair to make the respondent go through the CAT process;
- When the case deals with issues the CAT has no legal power to decide;
- When the applicant is using the CAT for an improper purpose such as to bring vexatious cases.
What is a vexatious cases?
The following are some of the criteria established to help identify vexatious conduct or cases which are an abuse of process:
- When an action is brought on an issue that has already been adjudicated;
- When it is obvious that the action cannot succeed, or the the action would lead to no possible good;
- When the proceeding is brought for improper purposes, including harassment and oppression of other parties by multifarious proceedings brought for purposes other than the assertion of legitimate rights;
- When someone rolls forward grounds and issues into subsequent actions;
- When someone persistently take unsuccessful appears from judicial decisions.
When will the CAT dismiss a case as being vexatious or an abuse of process?
While the CAT has the power to dismiss vexatious case and to restrict a party’s access to the tribunal, this power will only be used in cases where a party’s behaviour is extreme or where it represents a consistent pattern of abusing the Tribunal’s process with the intent to cause distress to the other party.
While the 8 cases brought by this owner were related (the owner was raising questions over the fairness and consistency of the corporation’s enforcement of the rules), the corporation had not demonstrated that any of the element of a vexatious case were present. None of the 8 cases had been determined; it was not obvious that the cases would not success; none of the cases had lead to an unsuccessful appeal and the issues of one case were not rolled into the next case.
While the CAT acknowledged that having 8 cases before it was an unusually high number, the CAT concluded that there was no evidence that the owner was using the tribunal for an improper purpose or for anything other than a legitimate way to resolve multiple disputes.
Having to respond to a CAT case can be a stressful and frustrating process. Usually, when someone resorts to the Condo Tribunal, the relationship between the parties is already broken. This sometimes can blind the parties’ better judgment.
There’s an old saying in the legal community: A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. The same can be true when a corporation opts to represent themselves before the CAT. It’s always best to (at least) get the opinion of your favourite condo lawyer before you allow a case to escalate and fester.
You can read the decision here.
Have a great long weekend everyone!