A Healthy Approach to Resolving Condo Building Disputes
You’ve stuffed every date with bacon flavored cream cheese, placed pink and silver balloons just outside your front door and yesterday you spent the day decorating the common terrace of your condo building with metallic pots filled with pink and white pansies. You are all set to host your best friend’s bridal shower. The guests should be arriving in about twenty minutes so you decide to dash up to the terrace and double check that the woman living in the unit below you, who has deemed herself the unofficial gardener of your condo building, has removed the 35 broken plastic pots filled with all manner of half alive plants, and numerous bags of half-used soil she insists on strewing about as part of her gardening activities. You bound up the steps to find that she has not made good on her promise to move these items and you find yourself, in heels and cream-colored dress dragging planters and bags of soil into a not so discreet corner location.
Your bridal shower goes off without a hitch, though some might contend the dirt strewn across the patio floor and the corner filled with sad looking plants in broken pots was a little unsightly. Still, your best friend loves the event and promises to throw one just like it for you when you become betrothed. You make a whole other kind of promise; you promise yourself that you will confront the woman who fancies herself the Poison Ivy of your condo building.
So do you confront your neighbor for being messy and leaving personal items in common areas? Good question. We could add that proposition along with the hundreds of other building complaints condo dwellers lodge against one another in the GTA. From loud music in the middle of the night, to signs restricting children in the pool (which is actually not legal in Ontario as it discriminates against age), to arguments over what can be left in the garbage room, living in close proximity to other people who may or may not share your interests or practices or lifestyle habits can present its challenges. As Toronto and the GTA grow in population, vertical living is becoming a very popular option. With this move into multi-unit living, individuals have to be willing to work with one another and resolve issues and disagreements as best they can. So what is the best way to go about resolving disputes between neighbors in condominium buildings?
Approaching a neighbor who is stepping on your proverbial toes gently and directly is often the best first step in resolving condo living disputes. Trying to see the situation from the other person’s point of view is of key importance to conversations like this. If it seems like you are not getting through to the other person, there is no need to become ornery. You should politely walk away and then take your dispute to your condo board. You will likely find that board members will try to work with you and your offending neighbor to come up with a solution that you can both live with.
If all else fails and your condo board is unable to help you mitigate a good solution to your concern, then there are always condo mediators who can help. These professionals work tirelessly to see both sides of the coin. They meet with all parties concerned and try to see things from each party’s perspective, all the while trying to help everyone get on the same page. Condo mediators have been gaining in popularity in Toronto and the GTA. Not only do they get the job done but they charge reasonable rates, especially compared to lawyers (who used to be the only choice for condo dwellers with complaints that were not being addressed properly).
It takes work to live in community and get along with neighbors whether you live in a single-family unit or in a multi-residential building. If everyone puts their best foot forward, complaints and concerns can often be dealt with in a timely and reasonable manner. Trying a peaceful tete a tete is a great first step and often works wonders. If not, reaching out to your condo board and asking them to help you with the issues you and your neighbor are having will likely do the trick. And if all else fails, you can rest assured that an experienced condo mediator can bring a solution to the problem at hand that is reasonable to all, emotionally and financially.
Lara Brighton is a journalist and real estate aficionado living in Toronto.