Legally Speaking: Some myths about condominiums

Legally Speaking: Some myths about condominiums

LEGALLY SPEAKING:

Here is the sixth in a series of legal columns by Quebec law firm  Joli-Cœur Lacasse Avocats.

Authors: Me Michel Paradis et Me Albina Mulaomerovic.

SOME MYTHS ABOUT CONDOMINIUMS

1st myth: I just bought a condo on a plan and I was not given any documents. I did not expect to be given any documents because the building has not been built yet.

Your lawyer’s advice: When a condominium project is put on the market, even if it is not built yet, you should be provided with the following documents:
• A draft of the declaration of co-ownership;
• The detailed plans of your unit;
• A detailed provisional budget (taxes and charges provided);
• Identification of engineers, architects and contractors involved in the project;
• A general scope of services offered and management arrangements.
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2nd myth: If the documents provided by the promoter regarding the condominium are incorrect, I will be able to sue.

Your lawyer’s advice: In order to make an informed decision about exactly what you are buying, you should insist on having a clear plan for all areas of your condo with the exact dimensions, accurate and exhaustive list of all the services that will be available in the common areas of the building such as your parking, storage and other spaces.
Post facto judicial action will not necessarily remedy this. The buyer who wishes to annul his offer to buy must demonstrate a serious prejudice to justify such annulation.
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3rd myth: Even though my transaction seems complicated, I do not have to worry about the details, because the notary will verify all documents.

Your lawyer’s advice: Promoters generally refer all their customers to one notary that the promoter has selected, although this practice is neither required by law nor recommended. The rule is generally that the buyer chooses the notary. Notaries are not all legal experts in co-ownership law. That is why it is important, on the occasion of such an important purchase, to consult real experts in the field. At the time of signing the purchase documents for your condo, be sure to check that your purchase agreement provides that your condo (the unit that you are buying) is free from all mortgages and especially, it is important to ask to read the declaration of co-ownership and the location certificate prior to the day of the signature of the sales contract.
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4th myth: I am entitled to parking and storage spaces: The notary will assign those at the moment of the purchase transaction.

Your lawyer’s advice: Make sure you know and have seen on site where your assigned parking and/or storage space(s) is/are located. Often, at the end of construction, some areas have been changed: some parking spaces are too narrow to park a normal car, or storage spaces on the original plans have disappeared.
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5th myth: I like to foresee my expenses and I follow a budget to avoid surprises. For those reasons, a fixed monthly amount of “condo fees” is right for me!

Your lawyer’s advice: For new condominium projects, the provisional budget presented by promoters is sometimes voluntarily undervalued. Be aware that soon after your purchase, condo fees could increase.
For existing co-ownerships, be sure to check the financial statements and the annual budget that could indicate major works to come or legal disputes in progress. This information will give you an overall idea if the charges that have been mentioned to you are likely to increase in the short term.
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6th myth: In the communal areas of the building, I obey the condo rules, but in my unit, I do as I please!

Your lawyer’s advice: Co-ownership rules apply equally inside the units. The co-owners must comply with regulations that can sometimes be very coercive. They must give their keys to the board of directors of the syndicate, present evidence of their insurance contract, disclose the presence of tenants, obey the restrictions concerning decoration (window coverings, flooring, heating, air conditioning, signs, choice of cable providers, presence of animals or other). Those are just some examples of these restrictions.
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7th myth: There was water damage in my condo. The communal areas of our building were also flooded. In this instance I have an insurance policy and the condo has one too. With two insurers on the case, I am certain of a quick resolution of the matter.

Your lawyer’s advice: It is important to know that your syndicate must take out insurance against ordinary risks, such as fire and theft, on the whole of the immovable. As well, a co-owner should take out insurance to cover the improvements made to his unit (like marble floors, oak cabinets etc…) and its civil liability. Both insurers should be able to settle the loss, but liability could be sought by the condo board to obtain the reimbursement of deductibles.
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8e myth: The condo board does a good job managing the co-ownership, so I do not need to attend the meetings of the co-owners.

Your lawyer’s advice: Important questions and decisions as to the future of the condominium are discussed at the general meeting of the co-owners. This is the only time of the year when co-owners can discuss topics such as the syndicate’s finances, contracts that your syndicate intend to sign with third parties, budget items or any other subject matter about the co-ownership where your condo is.
It is better to attend those meetings because if you are not satisfied with the decisions taken, actions must be exercised within a very short time limit of 60 days.
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9th myth: If condo life is not my thing, I will lease my condo to a third party.

Your lawyer’s advice: The declaration of co-ownership may have significant limitations and sometimes even prohibition on rentals. In cases where rentals are possible, the co-owner who leases his unit has to notify the syndicate and give the name of the lessee. The owner must also ensure that his or her tenants comply with the rules of the declaration of co-ownership.

Co-ownership law in Quebec is currently undergoing a reform, which may lead to important changes to certain applicable rules of the Civil Code of Québec. Among others, this reform aims primarily at better protecting co-owners and facilitating the management of the syndicate. Experienced professionals in condominium law are an important source of information and can help co-owners to navigate in such a complex legal environment.
Michel_Paradis mulaomerovic_albina

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