Duplicate keys

Article 7 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees the inviolability of the dwelling. In principle, no one can have access to the apartment of a co-owner without his consent. However, it was rightly held that this rule was not absolute. This is why most declarations of co-ownership provide that a co-ownerstenants or any other occupant of the immovable must leave, at all times, a duplicate of the keys to the board of directors or the person mandated to keep the keys. In the event of emergency work (for example during water damage), the co-owners are required to leave free access to their private portions to a representative of the syndicate. It should be noted that the Civil Code of Québec governs, in harmony with the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the general principles of law, persons, relations between persons, as well as property.

A right with limitations

As mentioned above, the declaration of co-ownership generally stipulates that any occupant must leave the keys to his unit to the directors of the syndicate or the manager of the co-ownership, if applicable. It is also specified that the holder of the duplicate keys is only allowed to enter the private portion under reserve of some conditions, such as in case of fire, or if it is necessary to intervene urgently following a ruptured pipe, an electrical circuit failure, a broken window pane, water damage, infiltration or flooding. The Superior Court of Québec held that this clause was not contradictory to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, as regards the rights to the enjoyment of property and the inviolability of the home (articles 6 to 8 of the Charter), relying in particular on articles 1062 and 1066 of the Civil Code of Quebec.

The directors can not enter the apartment without a valid reason, unless having informed the co-owner within the delays provided in the declaration of co-ownership, and that the latter has given his consent (if required). For example, it would be unlawful to enter the unit (without warning) for a reason based on mere suspicion, such as to inspect work that would have been undertaken without the syndicate’s authorization. Ditto if a director wants to inspect components or have work performed therein.

Alarm system

In addition, the declaration of co-ownership usually provides that if the unit is equipped with an alarm system, the access code must be disclosed to the directors. Failing doing so, a syndicate cannot be blamed for interrupting the alarm, even if in doing so it damages its components. The co-owner concerned should assume the resulting repair costs, as well as any other related invoice, such as if the police is called. It should be noted that several municipal regulations provide for a fine for any false alarm, on account of the police being called to the scene.

Delinquent owners and occupants

Unfortunately, the duplicate keys and alarm system provisions are not always respected. In case of an emergency, the syndicate can therefore find itself in a quandary if it does not have the key to the unit in which an urgent intervention is required. It could then take drastic measures, depending on the nature of the event in question. Nevertheless, it is not advisable to act alone in such circumstances, because of the risk of being sued by the absent co-owner. The best thing to do is generally to call the fire department. In addition, breaking down a co-owner’s door, in his absence, will cause damage that the latter will have to assume, if he did not give access to his unit in case of an emergency. He may exercise recursory legal recourses against any person whose fault, or act, is at the origin of an emergency that justified the intervention of the fire department.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ! In case of fire or water damage, it is better to have the keys to the apartment to be able to enter it and for example stop the water leak rather than resorting to the services of the firefighters who will break the door. Similarly, in case of loss of his keys, the co-owner or the occupant may find it advantageous to borrow those held by the syndicate rather than using a locksmith.

http://www.condolegal.com/images/Boutons_encadres/A_retenir.pngWHAT TO KEEP IN MIND : It is not forbidden for a syndicate to keep duplicate keys of the co-owner’s condo. It is however forbidden, except in case of an emergency, to use this duplicate without his consent.

WARNING ! The co-owner who refuses to hand over the key of his private portion to the syndicate may incur civil liability. He may be liable for damage resulting from an inability to quickly enter his unit. Keep in mind that in such cases, several declarations of co-ownership impose, under a penal clause, a fine upon defaulting co-owners.

 CONSULT THE PUBLICATION : Travaux en condo : Tout ce qu’il faut savoir (Condo work: All you need to know) on pages 101 and following.


Back to the mega-factsheet: The work of the syndicate in a privative portion