MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS IN CONDOS : How condo boards and property managers can cope with this growing issue

This is a topic that most fear talking about, but in my personal opinion and like many, I think it’s one that needs to have a voice in the condominium industry. Mental Health disorders are now reported to be the leading cause of non-fatal illness not only in Canada, but worldwide. What is mental health? Generally, this includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental Health is important at every stage of life from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

The affliction does affect young people, but it is more common among the older generations. Calgary has seen its aging population begin downsizing from the single-family homes to condo
communities. And with this comes increased risks for mental health disorders in multi-family setting. Condo boards and management companies will find that they will have to address mental health disabilities and psychological disorders among their condo residents as part of there daily tasks.

I understand that most managers are not trained and/or equipped in the area of dealing with mental health issues, but as managers, I think its important to understand and know how to address concerns with individuals facing mental health disorders

So what do you do as a condo manager or a board member and how can you help address the issue when it comes up?

Condo boards and mangers like New Concept Management Inc., should be proactive. Start with the least intrusive, least costly, and least heavy-handed measurers and work from there. I hear so many horror stories of condo managers and or board members who lack compassion. Well, I’m here to tell you that it simply doesn’t need to be that way. The old adage is true- you can
catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Being nice to nice people is great, but being nice to those who are not nice to you or have a hard time with basic communication skills is how the world becomes better. Here are some suggestions that may help go along way.
1. Be supportive — it doesn’t hurt or cost anyone to show some compassion towards one another. Kindness goes a long way even in the toughest of situations. Trust me, I know, it’s not always easy being a condo manager and I face a lot of challenges in my industry. In fact, I’m thinking about writing a book.
2. If someone has disclosed that they have a mental health issue. See how you and the board can accommodate their request. Every condominium in Alberta has a duty to accommodate an owner with a disorder, whether it is a physical or mental one up to the point of undue hardship and upon request. The obligation is set out in the Human Rights Code (the “Code”). The assessment of undue hardship is usually limited to considerations of any significant financial impairment to the condominium or health and safety concerns, but on rare occasions the courts have considered the
effect on the other residents.
3. Gather as much information as possible regarding the nature of the disability and the request for accommodation from the owner, caregiver or family member.
4. It goes without saying, but keep the information confidential. It should never be disclosed to outside sources like residents or other owners. It’s also as important to keep all communications regarding the request on file and not delay responding to the request for accommodation.
5. Most importantly, act in good faith in reviewing the request for accommodation and accept it unless there is legitimate reason for denial. You may want to seek legal council and or review the Human Rights Code.
6. Boards are infamous for setting policies and procedures that govern their condo. Why not set a policy on how you as a management company and board shouldrespond to requests for accommodations that deal with Mental Health Disorders or any Disability. I know we at New Concept Management Inc.; are in the process of developing polices to accommodate mental health disorders