Richard LeCouffe has been a lawyer since 1976. He is a graduate from the Université de Montréal, from which institution he received his law degree (LL.L.) in 1974.
During his career, although Me LeCouffe was mostly involved in labour and employment law affairs and negotiating labour collective agreements, he also had the opportunity to become very familiar with condominium law. Among other things, he has contributed in the writing of many articles, books, conferences, memoirs and legal procedures on the latter subject.
May 3, 2022- The duty of maintenance and conservation of the building that falls to the administrators of a co-ownership involves one day doing business with construction contractors. Whether it is to replace the roof, renovate the entrance hall or repair brick siding and masonry, it is important to be vigilant when awarding such contracts, given their often very high costs.
As agents of the syndicate, directors must act with caution, in order to protect the interests of the community of co-owners. This translates into various rules that should be followed, especially when the work is important:
1. Properly assess your needs and develop a realistic budget
To begin with, you should have a clear idea of the work that is required and the costs that this should entail. The syndicate is the client; it is therefore up to you, as representatives, to establish the needs and assess what the co-0wnership can pay.
When the work is relatively minor, administrators will often be able to assess its value themselves. However, for complex or large-scale work, the help of a building professional is recommended. The latter will help directors to identify the work required, set a realistic schedule and forecast their costs.
2. For major projects, have the tender documents, plans and specifications prepared by a building professional
When the planned work involves several trades, whether it affects a significant part of the building or is technically complex, the help of a building professional will be required to carry out the work. He will prepare the plans and specifications, as well as the tender documents.
In such circumstances, a contract of enterprise will also be drawn up that details the work to be carried out, the schedule, the price of the work and the timing of payments, penalties for delay, unforeseen circumstances and the method of dispute resolution, if any. This contract also provides for the provision by the contractor of sufficient guarantees, either civil liability insurance coverage or performance bond, or even both.
3. If plans, specifications and tender documents are not drawn up, draw up a detailed written contract
If the extent of the work does not justify proceeding by means of tender documents, plans and specifications, the fact remains that you must, at a minimum, prepare a written contract that lists precisely the list of all the work to be carried out, in addition to providing the schedule for completion, a start and end date of the work, the price and terms of payment of the instalments, as well as the applicable guarantees and exclusions, if any.
4. Solicit bids from more than one contractor
Ideally, at least three bidders will be sought, and references will be taken on each of them. You must also require proof of sufficient coverage for their liability insurance (minimum $1 million).
Note that you have no obligation to entrust the work to the lowest bidder, contrary to the generally held belief. Other criteria can be taken into consideration, whether it is the very attitude of the contractor, his availability and ease of joining him, his experience, the references of former customers, etc. Finally, remember that the choice of the entrepreneur must be made according to the interest of the community of co-owners, whose interests you represent, and not according to the particular interests of certain co-owners, as insistent and impressive as they are!
5. Entrust the work only to a contractor holding a licence from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec
It is strongly discouraged to entrust construction work to a person or company that does not hold a valid contractor's licence issued by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ). The directors who lend themselves to this game do not respect their obligations of prudence and protection of the interest of the co-owners. Indeed, contractors who have a licence from the RBQ hold a licence bond, which is intended to compensate a client who suffers damage due to the non-performance of the work by the contractor or a faulty execution of the work, defects or defects, as well as damage resulting from the deposits paid.
To check whether a contractor holds a valid RBQ licence, simply visit the organization's website and consult the register of licence holders located there.
6. Mandate to oversee major work
When the scale of the work justifies it, you will also entrust a monitoring mandate to the building professional whose services you have retained. The frequency of site visits varies depending on what is considered most appropriate in the circumstances.
7. Provide for the smallest possible instalment payments / withhold final payment
You should provide in the contract for the smallest possible down payment and stipulate the withholding of final payment until all work has been satisfactorily completed. In addition to ensuring that the contractor has paid all his employees (via the Commission de la construction du Québec) and his subcontractors, if any, and that he has duly paid all the contributions due to the Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), you will have a portion of the amount to be paid, to ensure that the work is all completed and that minor corrections have been made.
Following these few guidelines will not protect you from all the unfortunate eventualities that may arise, but you will greatly minimize the risks. Also, you will demonstrate that you have acted as diligent and prudent administrators, which will avoid reproaches, or even possible personal lawsuits.
Richard LeCouffe, Lawyer
1100, boul. René-Lévesque O.,
Montréal (Québec) H3B 4N4
Tél. : (514) 335-9595 / sans frais 855 633.6326
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