In your eagerness to finalize your offer to purchase, you may forget to ask the co-owner-seller if, over time, work has been carried out in the apartment. Yet, this question is of the utmost importance as it will allow you to ensure, as the case may be, that it has been executed correctly and legally. Also, it is required to refer to the declaration of co-ownership to know the rules that apply in this matter. Remember that when the work touches the common portions, it requires authorization. And sometimes even in a private portion, the declaration of co-ownership can impose constraints.
One must absolutely verify, whether the co-owner-seller has obtained, from his syndicate, the required authorizations, before carrying out alterations or improvements in his private portion. This authorization is granted either by the board of directors or by the general meeting of the co-owners.
The nature of the work may include, for example, replacing a carpet with a hardwood floor, redesigning a bathroom, or improving a kitchen by installing more luxurious cabinets than the original ones. If your seller has failed to obtain the required authorizations or has not been forthcoming about the work that has been done, you could suffer dire consequences. Such a scenario will occur, almost invariably, in the event that the work causes a prejudice to your future neighbors.
In addition, you should take out personal insurance, to cover, in the event of a loss, the cost of the repairs or replacement of the improvements (such as the improved kitchen cabinets) made to your apartment, whether by yourself or by previous co-owners. To cover you, your personal insurer must be informed accordingly; otherwise he may refuse to indemnify. In such occurrences, claiming from the syndicate's insurer will be to no avail, because, the latter is not required to cover damage to improvements made to the private portions.
Unit of reference
In addition, article 1070 of the Civil Code of Québec has been amended in June 2018. Henceforth it contains a third paragraph which provides that “In addition, the syndicate keeps at the disposal of the co-owners a description of the private portions that is sufficiently precise to allow any improvements made by co-owners to be identified. The same description may be valid for two or more portions having the same characteristics.” This description, “the unit of reference”, must be filed into the register of the co-ownership, so that the co-owners who request it can consult it. The obligation for the syndicates to establish this description of the private portions became effective December 13, 2018 for co-ownerships established after June 13, 2018. Those created before that date have been subject to it since June 13, 2020.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! Article 1070 C.c.Q. provides an obligation for all syndicates to make available to the co-owners " a description of the private portions that is sufficiently precise to allow any improvements made by co-owners to be identified”. It also provides that the same description may be valid for two or more private portions having the same characteristics. This description is commonly referred to as the " unit of reference ".
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND: Private portion improvements Insurance is not compulsory by Law. However, the vast majority of declarations of co-ownership requires co-owners to subscribe and maintain such insurance coverage.
WARNING! Some developers convert immovables into co-ownerships, but leave it up to the buyers to proceed, by themselves, to the interior design and to all the work to complete the apartments. Yet, the cost of such work undertaken by first generation co-owners can be substantial. The second buyer, as well as all his successors, need to find out what has been done over the years in terms of improvements. In this respect, consulting the description of the private portions (unit of reference) filed in the register of the co-ownership is the ideal means of ascertaining what as been done in the unit.
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