Many co-owners carry out work to renovate their apartments, after moving in, to make them more in tune with their tastes and personalities. Redecorating the premises and integrating new equipment,such as in the kitchen or the bathroom, is a legitimate endeavor. However, before a project can begin, you will need to verify whether the work in question is subject to prior authorization. Some work can be carried out without prior authorization, while other work requires the approval of the board of directors or of the general meeting of co-owners.
Right to peaceable enjoyment of the premises
In principle, any co-owner is free to undertake work in his private portion. Article 1063 of the Civil Code of Québec provides that ‘’Each co-owner has the disposal of his fraction; he has free use and enjoyment of his private portion and of the common portions, provided he complies with the by-laws of the immovable and does not impair the rights of the other co-owners or the destination of the immovable.’’
Normally, if maintenance work needs to be carried out in a private portion, each co-owner has the right to carry it out without prior authorization, whether it is installing a light fixture, replacing a sink, laying a carpet, repainting walls or applying new wallpaper.
A right that has its limits
However, every co-owner must be careful before carrying out work in his private portion, because this prerogative has limits, since the collective interest takes precedence over individual rights. As implicitly stated in article 1063 of the Civil Code of Québec, this work must not:
Respecting the rights of other co-owners
Specifically, the work must be carried out while insuring the absence of impacts, both on the common portions and on the co-owners themselves, and not jeopardize the soundness of the immovable. Experience shows that there are many problems, such as:
Respecting the by-laws of the immovable
Some work in a private portion may be prohibited, or be subject to the authorization of the syndicate, in order to verify their compliance. Such approval will be given (or not), either by the board of directors or by the general meeting of co-owners. Therefore a co-owner must, before undertaking any major work in his private portion, verify what the by-laws of the immovable (declaration of co-ownership) stipulate. For example, it is usually provided that in the event of a flooring replacement or modification, the newly installed product must (generally) match the acoustic properties of the original materials.
Respecting the destination of the building
Whether it is carried out by the syndicate or by the co-owners, all work undertaken in a co-ownership must respect the destination of the immovable, as well as the use for which the private portions are intended. Refer to the declaration of co-ownership, which sets out the rules to follow. For example, if the destination of the immovable is strictly residential, a co-owner will not be allowed to transform his apartment into a daycare centre, unless the authorization of the general meeting of the co-owners has been obtained. Furthermore, it would be necessary to amend the declaration of co-ownership in order to modify the destination of the private portion concerned, as well as that of the immovable.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! Most declarations of co-ownership provide that any co-owner wishing to undertake work (in his private portion), other than maintenance, must seek the prior authorization from the board of directors, and in some cases from the general meeting of co-owners. In some cases, under current municipal by-laws in force, an authorization from the municipality is also required.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND! If the work to be carried out (in a private portion) has an impact on the structure of the immovable, such as following the removal of a demising wall, it is generally necessary to submit it to the prior authorization of the general meeting of co-owners.
WARNING! Work carried out in a private portion in the absence of prior authorization, either by the board of directors or by the meeting of co-owners, may be sanctioned. The destruction of the improvements may be ordered by the court, as well as the restoration of the premises in their original state, at the expense of the co-owner concerned.
CONSULT THE PUBLICATION Travaux en condo Tout ce qu'il faut savoir (Condo work All you need to know) on pages 248 and following.