If you’re seeking a community lifestyle in a divided co-ownership in Quebec, it’s important to understand both the lingo and the legal structure. It should be noted that condos in Quebec are governed by the Civil Code of Québec (CCQ).
Understanding the lingo
Co-ownerships can hire a manager to manage the daily business of the co-ownership property. Condominiums that don’t have a manager are self-managed. The manager’s duties include levying assessments (in French, cotisations) against the units for special projects and collecting monthly condo fees from the co-owners (contributions, article 1054 CCQ). Condo fees (usually called charges communes) are calculated in proportion to the relative value of the co-owner’s fraction under article 1064 of the CCQ. A portion of the condo fees is deposited in a general fund (fonds d’administration) to pay for salaries, taxes and expenses, and another portion is deposited in a contingency fund (fonds de prévoyance, article 1071 CCQ) to repair or replace obsolete property; these amounts are calculated on the basis of a percentage of total operating expenses.
Some co-owners have common portions for restrictive use (parties communes à usage restreint), such as a deck, charging station and parking space, which are also taken into account in the calculation of fees. As mentioned above, condo fees are usually based on value (property size and location) compared to the total value of all the units.
A complex term you may come across is “servitude” in French and English in Quebec. The term “servitude” has more than one meaning. Under article 1177 of the CCQ, “a servitude is a charge imposed on an immovable, the servient land, in favour of another immovable, the dominant land, belonging to a different owner.” With regard to condos, we sometimes see references to “servitude” in Quebec where we would say “easement” or “right of way” in common law; for example, “Hydro-Québec has a servitude on the property.” If there is a risk the reader may not understand and the context means “right of way,” you might write “a servitude of right of way,” which is the translation in article 1189 of the CCQ for servitude de passage.
By-laws and verification reports
Divided co-ownerships are private, and co-owners adopt their own by-laws at the annual general meeting. The by-laws (règlement) for some buildings run into dozens of pages, covering everything from dog walking and garbage removal to prohibiting the watering of plants that drip onto lower balconies and, yes, cannabis use.
Co-owners (or their syndic) need to maintain their building by keeping a maintenance register or log (carnet d’entretien). The severe winters in Quebec with freezing-thawing cycles and road salt affect the durability of concrete structures. As a result of these conditions and after several tragic accidents related to structural failures, legislation was passed by the Government of Quebec (Building chapter from the Safety Code) to require an inspection by an engineer or architect of the façades (same word in English and French) of buildings of five storeys or more, including balconies, concrete slabs (dalles de béton) and other components. A verification report (rapport de vérification) must be issued on the 10th anniversary of buildings of five stories or more, and then every five years, and submitted to the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ). Multistorey parking garages (parcs de stationnement étagés or stationnements étagés) must be inspected for the first time within 12 and 18 months of their construction (see Parking garages – Maintenance and inspection). If problems are identified, remedial work must be undertaken and recorded in the register kept on the building premises.
So, before you buy a condo, make sure you understand the terminology and the legal framework. We hope you find this information helpful in making your dream a reality.
For more information, please read the Language Portal blog post “Condo terminology for those who dream of buying a condo” and the article “Condorama: Reflections on the World of Condo Advertising,” published by OTTIAQ’s Circuit magazine.
The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.
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