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With numbers so high, property management companies in Toronto and condo boards should be prepared to cope with mental health disorders within their community. Overcoming discrimination requires a clearer understanding of mental health disorders and how they can affect a person’s ability to communicate and make reasonable choices.
Here are some guidelines to help your board cope with residents suffering from mental health issues.
Recognize the Signs of Mental Health Issues
Recognizing the signs of mental illness can be more difficult in people you don’t know. However, there are some common warning signs you might notice including:
• Confused thinking
• A reduced ability to concentrate
• Expressing excessive fears or worries
• Extreme mood changes
• Withdrawal from social situations
• Low energy
• Detachment from reality often demonstrating paranoia
• Inability to cope
• Trouble understanding other people and situations
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
While some of these signs might be difficult to spot in just one interaction, over time you will start to see patterns. Adapting to meet their needs will make it easier for both you and the individual to communicate.
Practice Reflective Listening
Reflective listening helps people with mental disorders feel they are being heard. Good reflective listeners:
• Repeat the information received back to the speaker
• Ask questions to make sure you understand what the person is saying
• Express empathy to acknowledge their feelings
By providing your full attention, you can try to understand their situation. This can be particularly difficult if they seem to suffer from psychosis – being out of touch with reality. It is important to avoid disagreeing or trying to convince them they are wrong. Instead, avoid conflict and criticism and remain supportive.
Managing Difficult Behaviour
When someone becomes aggressive, or seems to be rambling, it is okay to set limits. Let them know with a kind tone that you understand they have more to say but that you are unable to continue at this time. This keeps you both calm, while allowing the conversation to end. In cases where you feel threatened, it is important to leave the situation. If their demeanor threatens your safety, you might have to call 9-11. You can also provide an email address for them to use to help avoid confrontations. Always be sure to follow up and respond so that they know they are being heard. Never provide personal contact information.
Use the LEAP Approach to Resolve Mental Health Issues
If a resident presents a problem, using LEAP helps you come up with solutions together:
- Listen: Listen and repeat back what you have heard without voicing opinions or sharing your ideas.
- Empathize: Empathize with their situation using calming comments and asking questions about how they are affected.
- Agree: Agree with points that make sense, especially where you can offer assistance.
- Partner: Work together to set goals and resolve the situation.
- LEAP allows you to provide support while working together to resolve issues.
Accommodating Mental Illness
Not all residents suffering from emotional or psychological problems will acknowledge they have a mental health issue. However, in the case they do, you have an obligation under the Human Rights Code to make accommodations relating to financial impairment as well as health and safety concerns. As mentioned, this can occur when the person asks for help, but this is not always the case. Either way the best approach is to make provisions for mental health accommodations in condo bylaws and policies. This can include:
- Anti-discrimination/harassment policies
- Reviewing and removing potential barriers
- Process to respond to accommodation requests
- The specific resolution process for disputes with residents suffering from mental illness
- Education and training programs for board members
These policies will ensure each individual is treated fairly, while also providing guidance for board members.
Understanding the Duty to Accommodate
Make sure you are familiar with the Duty to Accommodate when working on your bylaws and policies.
The three basic principles are:
- Respect for dignity: Dignity will include things such as a right to privacy, human rights values, and integration.
- Individualization: Each person has different needs, which means all accommodations must be based on changes that benefit these needs.
- Integration and full participation: Accommodations are designed to increase the potential for the person to integrate and participate in the community without barriers. Individuals should not have to live with undue hardship.
Adhering to these principles also helps board members remain sensitive to the needs of those with mental impairments.
Rights of Neighbours When it Comes to Mental Health
There can also be cases where neighbours are affected by a resident with mental health issues. This could affect their rights to “quiet enjoyment.” The condominium statute in Ontario provides courts with discretion to rule an owner displaying anti-social behaviour sell their unit. There are three areas of the Condo Act that can be applied to issues with mentally ill residents:
- Section 117 in which a resident is “likely to damage the property or cause injury to an individual”
- Section 119(1) which holds owners responsible to comply with the Condo Act and any by-laws
- Section 134 allowing court discretion to make “an order enforcing compliance” with the Act or the by-laws or “other such relief as is fair and equitable in the circumstances.”
However, you must show that appropriate accommodations were provided for the owner. If the disturbance is caused by a tenant, the owner of the unit must be notified as soon as possible to address the issues. However, “the duty to accommodate” requires landlords prove behaviour is voluntary in order to evict. Residents and the board should be certain to log all issues, complaints, incidents and police involvement as evidence the resident is interfering with their neighbours’ right to quiet enjoyment, or is a threat to them or their property.
Mental Health Resources
If you would like to prepare new condo bylaws and policies regarding mental health in your condo community, the experts at CPO Management Inc., a property management company in Toronto and the GTA serving condo corporations across the city, can help. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services.