Within condo communities directors and management bear the brunt of complaints, concerns and criticism. Until recently venues for voicing community concerns were limited to meetings or private written correspondence.
Suggesting that a condo director or management is receiving compensation or benefits in any form from vendors without proof is inappropriate. In addition to damaging an individual’s reputation, such rumours can damage a condo corporation’s reputation which impacts all condo owners. Within the confine of meetings or private correspondence, such concerns can be explored or explained.
Social media and e-mail are broader venues allowing unsubstantiated accusations, truthful or not, to be shared in a more public way. Social media allows individuals, using an anonymous name or e-mail address, to hide their identity while making statements that are false. The courts have ruled this is unacceptable.
One individual, posing as “Ian Fleming” and utilizing an anonymous Yahoo! e-mail address, chose to communicate his criticism of the board, and complaints, to all owners and residents of the condo corporation through a mass e-mail. He accused specific directors of receiving “kickbacks” and of “giving free reign” to contractors at the expense of owners. When requested, this individual refused to disclose their identity. The board sought and received a court order requiring Yahoo! to turn over information to identify “Ian Fleming”.
The court considered it unreasonable for an individual to send a mass e-mail making defamatory statements for which there was no proof. The judge agreed that an individual publishing defamatory statements to a large group of recipients is not entitled to an expectation of privacy.
In an unrelated case, a woman posting on Facebook insinuated a neighbour was a pedophile. The post was up for a day and went viral. The poster was found to have encouraged mass dissemination of false information. The court found this individual liable for the post; including all comments to the post, Likes and Shares. The individual was found to have encouraged further postings of this false information and ordered to pay $65,000.
The Condo Act (section 117) prohibits owners from carrying out any activity likely to cause injury to an individual. The judge concluded that the condo corporation had a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance with governing documents including the Condo Act.
Condo residents should avoid the use of social media and e-mail to make accusations against individuals including condo directors. A more reasonable approach is to ask questions in person, personal written correspondence or at meetings.