When shopping for an apartment, you must find out if it is in a divided or undivided co-ownership. Even though both concepts are similar in that their ultimate goal is the partition of an immovable between several persons called co-owners, the financial and legal commitments are different.
The conversion of a immovable to divided co-ownership (condos) is subject to strict formalities and municipal by-laws, which can restrict the conversion or make it subject to certain conditions.. Unfortunately this does not always prove possible, more particularly because of the very high costs such a process implies (such as subdivision taxes known «Parkland taxes» applicable in certain boroughs of Montreal or other municipalities) and vested rights in favor of tenants.
In undivided co-ownership, the rights of withdrawal and of first refusal may disrupt the course of a real estate transaction. It is important to know that other co-owners may take precedence over a potential purchaser. The title of the latter could be precarious for some time: a buyer who acquires rights in an undivided co-ownership without first receiving the approval of all the undivided co-owners is therefore liable to have his share redeemed and thus be excluded from the indivision.
A phased co-ownership allows the developer to spread the design of a real estate project over several years, and to modulate the pace of construction work according to the evolution of unit sales. This formula implies that the developer, rather than establishing once and for all the co-ownership he wants to create, proceeds in stages.
The co-ownership he creates as part of this real estate project evolves, during construction, before reaching its final form. Because of the complex legal structure, only lawyers and notaries who are fully knowledgeable in the applicable rules of the field should act.
A phased co-ownership is also beneficial to consumers. From the time the first buildings are developed, buyers usually know what to expect about the direction of the project, its location and the nature of the buildings to come. This protection is important because if, for example, a developer were to suffer a setback, his successors would be required to honour the original plans and respect what was represented to first-time buyers.
By purchasing a condo (apartment) in a residential tower, you automatically become an owner in a vertical co-ownership. You can also be in a divided co-ownership, if you purchase a house (semi-detached or townhouse), built on the same lot than other individual homes. It is then called a horizontal co-ownership.
In divided co-ownership, the right of ownership is divided, among the co-owners, by "fractions", each comprising a materially divided private portion (e.g. an apartment, a parking or storage space, and sometimes even a plot of land) and a share of the common portions. To each fraction is attached an undivided right of ownership in the common portions, and sometimes the right to use the common portions for restricted use.
The fraction is the result of the division of a building to create a condominium. In other words, the addition of all the fractions constitutes, by the effect of the publication of a declaration of co-ownership, the condominium building.
The essence of divided co-ownership (condo) is to divide the building into private portions for the exclusive use of a co-owner, and into common portions for the common use of all the co-owners or of one or more co-owners.
The private portions are the fractions of the immovable in which the co-owners have an exclusive right of property. They are described in the part of the declaration of co-ownership dedicated to the cadastral description of the fractions. These portions are physically identifiable. It can be an apartment, a parking space or a parcel of land in the case of townhouses. Each private portion has its own cadastral designation.
The purchase of a condo gives you easier access to property, on account of lower costs compared to a single family home. Young couples and tenants take advantage of this formula. An increasing number of them opt for condo life, which allows them at last to become owners.
You have taken the decision to purchase an apartment in a co-ownership. It is often an excellent investment and an easy way to have access to home ownership. In many instances, it will be the investment of a lifetime.
This purchase will involve you, from day one, in the community of co-owners for years to come. Be aware: this decision should not be taken lightly to ensure that your purchase will not become a nightmare.
You have found the apartment of your dreams. At last, you will buy the property you have coveted. But before signing the offer to purchase, nagging doubts are in the back of your mind, you have many questions: