In a recent Alberta case, a former tenant of a condominium property attempted to compel the release of other tenants’ names in preparation for a class action suit alleging negligence and breaches of duties as a result of bedbug and cockroach infestations. The court refused to order the release of the other tenants’ names, citing privacy issues.
Tenant Files Action Against Condominium Management Company
In 2017, the tenant of a condominium building in Edmonton, Alberta commenced an action against a company that had been retained by the condominium corporation to manage the property.
The tenant had rented the unit from its owner through a second management company from 2015 to 2016. He claimed that the leased unit as well as others in the condominium property were infested by bedbugs and cockroaches, making them untenantable. He sought damages for the consequences of bites, alleging that the management companies had breached their duties to him. His damage claims included loss of income as he claimed that he had been unable to work for an extended period of time because of the effects of the bites.
The tenant commenced the action as an intended class proceeding under the Class Proceedings Act on behalf of himself and other tenants and owners in the condominium corporation who were harmed by the bedbugs and cockroaches. He alleged negligence and breaches of duties by the two management companies.
Questioning took place in October 2020. During questioning, a representative of the first management company refused to provide the names of the people who were living as tenants in the units treated for bedbugs or cockroaches from 2015 to 2016.
The management company’s position was that it was not required to produce the tenant information partly for privacy concerns and partly because the identity of tenants was irrelevant because the action had not yet been certified as a class proceeding and there was no application for certification. Additionally, it submitted that the potential size of the class was not relevant or material before an application for certification had been filed.
Court Refuses to Order Release of Tenants’ Names
At the outset, the court stated:
“I agree with [the management company] that it is generally not up to the Defendant to do the Plaintiff’s work for them. [The management company] says the identity of any tenants is not relevant because this is not yet a certified class proceeding, nor has an application for certification been filed. The tenants’ privacy should be respected as much as possible.”
Certainly, the identity or even the existence of other injured parties is not relevant to [the tenant]’s own claim. This is relevant only in the context of class proceedings…. Here, there is no mystery that the [tenant] intends this to be a class proceeding on behalf of owners and tenants in the condominium property affected by bedbugs and cockroaches, and it would be contrary to the spirit of the Foundational Rule to put exploration of this issue on hold until a certification application has been brought.”
The court then noted that while the management company had produced a list of the names of the owners of the units, which are already of public record through the Land Titles office search, there is no registry of tenants.
On the issue of privacy, as raised by the management company, the court stated:
“I consider the existence of a tenancy to be, in most cases, at the low end of privacy. There are exceptions to that where a tenant may have valid security concerns if their residential address were known to others. However, tenants are required to provide their residence address for motor vehicle registry purposes, to utility suppliers, and likely many others. Tenants frequently display their names at building entrances. There are privacy interests at play, and in the absence of a compelling reason to require that their identities be disclosed at this stage of the proceedings, I am not satisfied that the [tenant] has demonstrated a reasonable need to know.”
Instead, the court held that knowledge of which units had been occupied would be sufficient to determine the size of the class or classes, without requiring the names of the individuals.
As a result, the court issued an order requiring the management company to provide the tenant with information as to the specific units occupied at various times during the relevant period.
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