The façades of a building not only ensure its watertightness, they alare also a main component of its appearance. In addition to protecting the occupants from the elements, the façades have an identity and style. It is therefore essential to ensure their structural and architectural integrity, if major work needs to be carried out to repair or replace them. More specifically, the main façades of a building, whose history and conceptual integrity require meticulous interventions. Whether it is on a stand alone building, a co-ownership by phases or on townhouses. This is especially true in co-ownerships, where respecting the specific intention of the architect who designed the building is essential.
In addition, some façades are subject to the Building Chapter of the Safety Code (BCSC), adopted in 2013 by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ). They must be inspected at fixed intervals and, if necessary, corrective work must be carried out to keep them safe. A review of the components that make up the envelope of a building, and which require special attention.
The legal status of the façades may differ from one co-ownership to another, depending on what is stipulated in the declaration of co-ownership (Constituting Act of the co-ownership). A distinction must be made between façades that can be qualified as private portions and those that could be qualified as common portions.
Unlike a vertical co-ownership, the façades of a building located in a horizontal co-ownership, such as in a townhouse, are generally not common portions. Therefore, there will be no contingency fund to replace the masonry or the windows at the end of their useful life. Retrofitting work shall be incurred at the expense of the owner of the housing unit concerned.
Generally, a declaration of co-ownership requires co-owners to ensure the maintenance of their private portion. If this is not done, the syndicate may, in certain circumstances, carry out this work at the expense of the co-owner concerned. This provision is based on the obligation (section 1039 of the Civil Code of Québec) for the syndicate to ensure the preservation of the immovable and to purchase insurance (common and private portions) that will adequately cover it.
Whether in a horizontal co-ownership or as part of an integrated project of co-ownership by phases, the declaration of co-ownership usually includes provisions to preserve the overall harmony of the façades. These provisions are based on the creation, within the declaration of co-ownership, of a servitude that obliges the co-owner(s), as well as the syndicates, to maintain the architectural harmony and uniformity of the various buildings of the co-ownership. The declaration of co-ownership may also impose this obligation on co-owners and syndicates by the means of a stipulation inserted in the destination of the immovable. Thus, should the façades require work, it must be carried out in accordance with the architectural uniformity of the building. For example, red bricks cannot be replaced by bricks of a different colour. If it is impossible to find bricks identical to the original ones, it will be necessary to opt for those whose appearance is as close as possible to the original bricks. The same applies to entrance doors, for which the style and colour used as a replacement must be similar to those chosen during the construction of the building.
The Civil Code of Québec stipulates that "the foundation and main walls of buildings" are presumed to be common portions of the co-ownership. The elements that make up a façade are sometimes considered to be an integral part of the foundation and main walls of the building. For example, it could be a solid masonry wall that supports the floors. In the case of a vertical co-ownership, the façades of the building are generally common portions.
The law requires the syndicate to take all necessary measures to ensure the longevity of the common portions of the immovable. It is notably responsible for:
In principle, the syndicate has the exclusive competence to have work carried out upon the common portions. No co-owner is entitled to intervene in this matter, not even to restore them.
The inherent costs for the façades (common portions) are financed by the common expenses (condo fees). As for maintenance, replacement, improvement or alteration costs, they are allocated among the co-owners. The amount to be paid depends on the relative value of each unit.
Building Chapter of the Safety Code
In addition, since March 18, 2013, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) has adopted the Building Chapter of the Safety Code (BCSC). This specifically applies to the façades of buildings with five storeys (above ground) or more. All façades must now be inspected every five years and maintained periodically. The BCSC also requires that a register be kept, in which important relevant information must appear, including a description of repairs made to the façades (if any), modifications or maintenance carried out, and related inspection reports.
When an architect or engineer (depending on the situation) detects the presence of dangerous conditions on a façade, namely if one of its elements threatens to detach itself from the building, or if there is an imminent risk of collapse, he must immediately inform the RBQ and the syndicate of co-ownership concerned. This building professional will also recommend the emergency measures put in place or to be implemented without delay in order to eliminate these dangerous conditions.
In addition to these emergency measures, the owner of a façade is also required to complete a form entitled Déclarer une condition dangereuse : façade ou parc de stationnement (Declare a dangerous condition: façade or parking lot) within 30 days of its discovery. He must also provide the RBQ for approval, a description prepared by an engineer or architect of the corrective work to be carried out, as well as a schedule of such work.
What must be included in the register of co-ownership
The syndicate of a building subject to the BCSC must keep a register throughout the life of the building, which will be kept on site. This register includes:
Each façade must be examined, at the earliest, within 6 months preceding the date of production of the inspection report. The objective is that the occupants of the immovable, or those who circulate in its vicinity, are protected against defects that could compromise their safety or expose them to a dangerous condition.
Through their syndicate of co-owners, the co-owners must, without exception, guarantee that their building is not affected by any dangerous conditions. To do so, the syndicate must obtain (from an architect or engineer) an inspection report certifying façade safety. The latter must contain:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! The façades of a building include the following elements : the walls , but also, namely, the windows and their sills, the doors, as well as the balconies and their railings.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND : Some signs of façade deterioration should be brought to the attention of the syndicate of co-ownership. These signs indicate that a more thorough inspection is necessary. Cracks, rust stains, visible deterioration on balconies, displaced brick, stone and concrete blocks and deteriorated joints on the building's exterior cladding are among the most common signs.
WARNING! A syndicate of co-owners or a professional who contravenes a provision of the Safety Code will be fined. The amount of the fine may be substantial.