Water damage is the leading cause of loss in co-ownership. They are also becoming more and more expensive, whether for syndicates or their insurers. And this is not surprising since the potential causes of loss are numerous. Over the past decade, the proportion of water damage has more than doubled in co-ownership.
In order to limit the extent of damage caused by water leaks, water leak detection systems have been created to detect any abnormal amount of water on the floor. This type of system also ensures the automatic closing of the main water inlet of the apartment. The objective is to be able to stop the source of water supply as soon as a leak is found.
In Quebec, we can also see the warning signs, particularly in co-ownership, where several syndicates of co-owners pay premiums and are subject to exclusions or extremely high deductibles. Others become insurance orphans, because they are unable to put the risk back after being abandoned by their insurer.
As some syndicates of co-owners struggle to take charge of themselves, others do it for them, including insurers. Several of them are now demanding that increased preventive measures be put in place in the buildings they insure. They can even make it a condition of the renewal of an insurance contract. We are now seeing insurers requiring the installation of water leak detection systems with automatic water cut-off in common and private portions. This requirement is intended to maintain the insurance coverage that the syndicate needs.
Mode of operation
Small sensors are installed in the places most prone to water leaks, such as appliances such as washer, dishwasher, water heater, toilet and sink. When a sensor comes into contact with a small amount of water, it immediately transmits a signal to the master module, which controls the automatic closure of the main water inlet of the apartment. Its speed of action makes it possible to significantly reduce the extent of the damage caused by the water leak.
Most declarations of co-ownership provide that if a co-owner neglects to carry out maintenance work in his or her unit, the syndicate may be called upon to intervene and act on its behalf. In doing so, does the syndicate have the authority to require the installation of systems in the units?
Article 1039 of the Civil Code of Quebec provides that " 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 community of co-owners (syndicate), it reads the following sentence: " must, in particular, see to it that the work necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the immovable is carried out."
This implies that the syndicate can be the one that implements this work even in the units. The author emeritus Christine Gagnon, in her book entitled LA COPROPRIÉTÉ DIVISE, 5E ÉDITION, wrote on the subject the following: If the syndicate faces the insurer's requirement to install protection systems in the building against water damage, on pain of no longer having insurance coverage for any damage caused by water in the building, this is a matter that falls within its jurisdiction, the duty of conservation and operations of common interest that extend to the entire building. Ensuring the building is certainly to see to its conservation.
The board of directors may therefore decide, if the conservation of the building so warrants, to install such a system throughout the building, including in the private parts, subject to its duty to consult the meeting if a special budget is to be adopted or if this installation is to be supplemented by an amendment to the building by-law, which may be useful. , but not required for installation.
Work in the units
The syndicate has the legal obligation to ensure the protection of the rights appurtenant to the immovable, with regard to the work to be carried out in the common and private portions. These works may be related to minor or major maintenance and conservation operations, or to urgent interventions, when the sustainability of the built heritage is weakened by a fortuitous event. In such situations, article 1066 of the Civil Code of Quebec provides that no co-owner may interfere with the carrying out — even inside his private portion— and which are necessary for the preservation of the immovable.
However, if only one private portion is not equipped with this system within the required time following the negligence or refusal of a co-owner, the entire building would not be covered for the damage caused by water. According to author emeritus Christine Gagnon, the failure to do work in a single unit could eventually cause damage to all the co-owners and the syndicate when an uncovered loss occurs. This leads to considering this system as a common system in certain cases where it protects not only the private portion, but the entire building.
Method of apportionment of expenditure
As for the method of distributing the cost generated by such an installation, it depends on whether or not it is necessary to carry out such work to safeguard the insurability of the building. If the installation of such a system is required by the insurer or by special circumstances, this cost must be shared among the co-owners, as a common charge, according to the relative value of their respective fractions. This is the only possible method of distribution, because the legal provision that prescribes it is mandatory.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! The purpose of water leak detection systems is to significantly reduce the number of disasters caused by water leaks. They transmit, in the event of a leak, the information to an electronic module that causes the main water inlet to close. These systems can also be connected to a monitoring centre, much like alarm systems. Once the problem is reported to the co-owner or the syndicate, a series of measures are put in place.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KEEP IN MIND: It could be risky to leave it to the co-owners to install a water leak detection system when the insurer makes it a requirement. Some co-owners may refuse to act on it and others may skimp on the quality and number of detection parts.
WARNING! Where the installation of such a system is not required by the insurer or by the increase in premiums or deductibles, the imposition of the installation on a co-owner, in his private part, can be justified only if the actual conservation of the immovable so requires.