A bathtub or a washing machine that overflows into the apartment below, a hot water tank that conks out and spills down six floors: losses involving the civil liability of a co-owner are many co-ownerships. And they are expensive! This is why the amount of insurance premiums and deductibles have increased significantly in recent years.
Worse still, some insurers no longer want to insure co-ownerships, because of a loss ratio that has become out of control. This situation is directly related to the insurer of the syndicate, which is almost always called upon to cover a loss, when damage has been caused to the common and private portions. Thus the question of who is responsible arises. It is also necessary to know the applicable law to the owner at fault. Other considerations affect both the insurer of the syndicate and those of the co-owners concerned, to determine who will pay what?
The Self-Insurance Fund will become mandatory on April 15, 2022 following the adoption of the Bill 141, in 2018, which notably created section 1071.1 of the Civil Code of Québec. It had become necessary due to a substantial increase in insurance deductibles. Most of the time, the amount of these deductibles was formerly negligible, whereas today, it can reach tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Several syndicates of co-owners did not wait, or will not wait until April 15, 2022, in order to constitute a Self-Insurance Fund, according to their management based on logic and pragmatism.
When you own an apartment in a co-ownership, you share the common portions, such as the roof, the lobby and the elevators in undivided ownership with the other owners. By the same token, you also share a portion of the liabilities attached to them.
The law regulates the liability of contractors and building professionals for any problem related to the quality of construction work. In this regard, the legislator has provided for a specific protection regime for divided co-ownership. Section 1081 of the Civil Code of Québec recognizes the legal interest of any syndicate of co-owners to assert the rights of all co-owners to correct defects that appear, in the short or long term. This could occur during the initial construction of the building, or during work carried out several years after its erection. In short, when problems affect the common portions, the syndicate benefits from several legal warranties. Among them is the one against latent defects, design or construction defects. These warranties are worth their weight in gold, because very often, the cost of the work to be carried out in a co-ownership can be substantial.
The day-to-day administration of the syndicate may even be entrusted to a co-ownership manager who may, but need not be, chosen from among the co-owners. The syndicate of co-owners can thus delegate to the co-ownership manager other tasks and responsibilities that are generally the responsibility of the board of directors (collect the syndicate's claims, publish a notice of legal hypothec on the fraction of defaulting co-owner, instituting legal proceedings for all matters concerning his administration, giving releases and discharges, etc.). Yet, anyone who is in charge of administering property that is not his own or that is not only his own assumes significant responsibilities. That is why - and notwithstanding the co-ownership manager’s best intentions- it is advisable to take out insurance to cover his faults, errors or omissions.
After being victims of a loss, the members of the board of directors and the affected co-owners are often caught off guard. How will things unfold? There is no need to worry or panic, because in principle, once the notice of loss completed, various stakeholders get involved: the insurer of the syndicate, but also that of co-owners and lessees, who will respectively designate their own claim adjuster. Generally the co-owners affected by a loss, as well as the syndicate, believe that making a claim is always the right thing to do. This is true in many cases, but sometimes the syndicate might want to refrain from doing so.
Contrary to other jurisdiction, Québec Law does not compel a lessee to subscribe “home insurance” which, in the event of a loss, covers his property and his civil liability. This “negative-obligation” becomes a problem if your lessee causes damages to a third party and he is not insured. In such cases, the declaration of co-ownership can hold you (the co-owner) solidarily liable for the damages he has caused.
Your lessee is liable for any damages he causes during the term of the rental. Civil liability insurance covers him against material damages or bodily harm he may inflict (unintentionally) to third parties, and against faults committed by persons he accommodates or lodges in his dwelling. This insurance also covers damages that his property may cause to third parties. For example, it will cover water damage to your apartment generated by an overflowing washing machine, and also in a neighbor’s apartment.
Almost every insurance policy includes deductibles, in varying amounts according to the insured risk (e.g. fire and water damage). In co-ownerships, deductibles are a factor in the Building insurance, and in the third party liability insurance of the syndicate, directors, general meeting officers, co-ownership manager (gérant) and of the condo manager (gestionnaire). Regarding co-owner’s insurance, generally each home insurance policy contains one or more deductibles for various amounts according with the nature of the loss.
Usually declarations of co-ownership list the patrimony of the syndicate of co-owners. Among the items owned by the syndicate is the register of co-ownership. It contains all the syndicate's archives, such as the declaration of co-ownership, the up-to-date list of co-owners and tenants of the immovable and the minutes of the co-owners meetings and the board of directors meetings, enabling it to carry out its mission adequately. The co-owners must have access to this register, which can be entrusted to a director or a condo manager.
The insurance premiums are the amount paid by the insured monthly or annually to benefit in the event of a claim from the guarantees in the insurance policy. It is an expense towards the preservation, maintenance and administration of the immovable. Although the syndicate assumes this cost, it is charged back to the co-owners as a portion of their common expenses (condo fees).