Expenses related to work in a co-ownership are a source of concern for many syndicates of co-owners. The average age of Quebec co-ownership now exceeds 30 years and many of them must or will soon have to carry out major repairs to the common portions. The primary mission of the syndicate, it should be remembered, is to ensure the preservation of the immovable. The competition between undertakings offering services in this area therefore enables the syndicates to choose from among the tenders proposed by the latter, the most competitive tender, bearing in mind that price is not the only selection criterion.
Every syndicate of co-owners has obligations regarding common portions maintenance. Article 1039 of the Civil Code of Québec provides that "Upon the publication of the declaration of co-ownership, the co-owners as a body constitute a legal person, the objects of which are the preservation of the immovable, the maintenance and administration of the common portions, the protection of the rights appurtenant to the immovable or the co-ownership, as well as all business in the common interest”.
However, this section was amended following the adoption of Bill 16. At the end of the first paragraph, referring to the syndicate of co-ownership, it reads the following sentence: "The legal person must, in particular, see to it that the work necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the immovable is carried out."
In the event that the latter fails to maintain and preserve the immovable, the syndicate may incur civil liability. This means that it is bound to have the necessary work carried out to prevent deterioration of the common portions of the immovable. The declaration of co-ownership and other legal provisions impose this obligation.
The law provides specific provisions, to protect syndicates of co-owners against defective work (article 1081 of the Civil Code of Quebec). The legislator aims to alleviate apparent deficiencies at the end of a project. Regarding work in common portions, the syndicate has several legal warranties. Among these are the warranties for poor workmanship, for hidden defects and for the loss of the work. These rights are worth their weight in gold, since more often than not the cost of work in co-ownerships is very high.
In addition to the legal warranties, which apply in any case, in accordance with the conditions that govern them, the contractual liability of the contractor may also be invoked, under the legal contractual regime. The contractor may also offer additional guarantees.
Work to be carried in common portions is to be undertaken by the syndicate of co-owners. In its capacity of the client, he is the instigator and the beneficiary thereof. It prepares the specifications and consequently the needs, the budget, the provisional calendar and the objectives to be achieved. In relation to such work, the syndicate should always be governed by its mission. It should never act as a substitute for the general contractor, such as mandating the subcontractors directly to do the work, or by interfering in the conduct of the construction site, in the place and stead of the people responsible therefor.