Death in Co-ownership : A Taboo Subject ?

Life as a condo manager can be full of unforeseen events. In addition to having to manage many technical, financial, and administrative aspects on a daily basis, we also have to deal with delicate situations that inevitably require our involvement.

Whether inside or outside the building, a death can occur, whether accidental, natural, or even criminal. Although deaths most often occur within the walls of the private portion, they will inevitably have an impact on the management of the building.

 

When such an event occurs at home, the family of the deceased must organize the removal of the body, which means ensuring that the unit is accessible.

Since the announcement of a death is left to the discretion of the estate liquidators, condominium staff must exercise discretion regarding the death and make themselves available to assist the funeral services if necessary to facilitate the transport of the body.

In some cases, the liquidator may not appear at the time of death, or may fail to contact the manager, or the staff may not be notified. In such cases, it is up to the estate to draw up an inventory of the personal property in the private area.

If the death was discovered late and aggravating factors are present (e.g. foul odours coming from the condo where the death occurred), the manager may be called upon to force the execution of provisions included in most declarations of co-ownership. This may include cleaning the condo to prevent the spread of pathogens or microbes that could enter the building’s ventilation ducts, for example. Generally speaking, article 1066 of the Civil Code of Quebec specifies the terms and conditions of access, including access for necessary inspections. These measures are designed to meet the Board’s obligations in terms of building conservation and occupant safety. However, it is important to note that management must have a prior reason for carrying out such inspections, and that they cannot be carried out under any other pretext.

 

Many declarations of co-ownership also specify the terms of access in the building by-laws.

In all cases, to keep a written record of the steps taken prior to an inspection in the event of a presumed death (telephone calls to all the resident’s emergency contacts and written notification), it is crucial to document each action.

What happens if a resident’s immediate family member contacts management, concerned that their loved one has not responded for several days?

I’ve personally experienced this. Alerted by the mother of a resident who hadn’t heard from her in several days, the building’s security guards went on site to check on her. As the guards had not seen the resident for over a week, and it was not her habit to stay in her condo, they went directly to the site. When there was no response, they opened the unit and found that the resident had probably died a week earlier.

Since some of the property was contaminated with fluids, decontamination was necessary and had to be coordinated with the estate.

 

In the case of a death of an accidental nature, it is sometimes necessary for the manager to participate in investigations with the police if the cause is suspicious.

For example, although isolated, there have been cases of death falling from balconies in large high-rise developments. Death by drowning in a condominium swimming pool could also lead to a lawsuit against the syndicate by the estate. In a recent case, the estate of a deceased resident sued the syndicate for damages, attributing his death to the syndicate’s negligence.

In such cases, the syndicate must be proactive and take corrective action if the common areas available to residents are unsafe and could cause further incidents through its negligence.

 

Impact on payment of condo fees

You should know that, despite the death of a loved one, all condo fees remain payable to the syndicate until the transfer of ownership to the liquidator or heirs, as the case may be. In order to proceed with this transfer, the syndicate must receive a declaration of transmission detailing the successors and assigns, who will then receive a notice of assessment.

In all cases, unless prior agreement has been obtained from the Board of Directors, the interest charges and penalties provided for in the declaration of do-ownership for non-payment of common expenses will apply.

It’s best to plan ahead and make the payment personally instead of through the estate, if delays are required to open the estate account.

 

Impact on the sale of the condo

Whether you are the co-owner of a condo in which your tenant has died, or the liquidator of the estate of a condo for sale, a death will have an impact at the time of sale. Whether it’s a death inside a private portion or in the common areas/outside grounds, or even in another fraction for smaller syndicates, it’s essential to declare any type of death on the seller’s declaration form. It will be at the discretion of any potential buyer to judge whether or not the declaration will negatively affect his or her buying process, It will be at the discretion of any potential buyer to judge whether or not the declaration will adversely affect his or her buying process, even in the case of a natural death. Your real estate broker will be able to guide you in filling out the necessary forms.

Renaud Bourrassa

Director of Management


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New Condo? Get a good manager on your side !

Many will not see the need to use the services of a manager for a new construction. However, certain steps are crucial when setting up the co-ownership syndicate.

The need for professional management has already been mentioned in the media, through several articles and reports, including in particular that broadcast by the program La Facture on Radio-Canada (french only), a few years ago. The latter, entitled “Condos bâtis sur des coquilles vides’’ (french only), highlights a major problem in the condominium construction industry in Quebec.

A problem that we have already had to deal with for certain co-ownership syndicates that we manage.

Although little known to the general public, this phenomenon highlights the crucial importance of certain concepts during the initial phase of a new construction. An experienced manager becomes the essential ally to navigate through the challenges of establishing a syndicate. From the creation of the co-ownership register to the efficient management of common areas, each step requires specific expertise.

 

The principle of the empty shell

Although the report on La Facture, broadcast in 2020, exposed these practices, they remain glaringly relevant today. The report explained how some construction companies create numbered companies for their real estate projects, a tactic aimed at protecting themselves against possible substantial expenses in the event of later discovery of construction defects or hidden defects.

This observation highlights the continuing importance of being well supported in the complex world of real estate construction. The company empties the coffers once the project is completed, which leaves no room for owners to claim amounts owed to them.

The report particularly targeted the company Habitations Trigone. However, this business model is widespread among several companies. In the cases where we had to confront this reality, it involved companies other than Habitations Trigone.

If you would like to watch the report, it is available free of charge on the tou.tv website.

 

The importance of being supported by an experienced manager

In the context of new construction, some may underestimate the use of the services of a manager. However, when setting up the co-ownership syndicate, certain steps are of crucial importance. Therefore, to ensure a solid foundation for your co-ownership syndicate, collaborating with a manager is essential, but the choice must be judicious.

 

Expertise adapted to new construction

In the context of new construction, it is imperative to favor a manager with in-depth expertise in the field of construction. This person must be familiar with the different phases of a construction project and the necessary documentation. To our knowledge, few management companies master the construction aspect, with the exception of SolutionCondo. Our technical team, led by Sébastien St-Pierre (more than ten years of experience) and Valérie Vincent, is specially trained to address the unique challenges of real estate projects currently being carried out.

 

A building manager specialized in construction

Our team stands out on the market with its in-depth knowledge of construction. The two heads of the Technical Department were both immersed in the world of construction before venturing into co-ownership syndicate management.

Sébastien St-Pierre has led teams on large-scale projects in Quebec and Canada for more than ten years and has excellent knowledge of building maintenance.

Valérie Vincent now has more than six years of experience in architectural firms as a building technician and architectural designer. Her technical knowledge and experience in site supervision allow her to effectively manage projects, large and small within co-ownerships.

 

Acceptance of the common areas of the building

One of the crucial steps when the building is completed is to proceed with the acceptance of the common areas of a building. There should be a certificate of completion of work issued by the contractor. Often, this document is signed too quickly without having made the necessary checks in advance. Members of the Board of Directors are not to blame, since the construction field is often unknown to them.

Please note that there is a deadline to sign this document and that it should never be signed upon receipt. Before signing this document, it would be advisable for the co-ownership syndicate to hire one or more experts who will examine the building and write a report on the conformity of the installations. In the best-case scenario, you should not wait too long to avoid the company emptying its coffers and you finding yourself in front of an empty shell!

 

The central role of the co-ownership manager

Calling on a manager from the start means arming yourself against empty shells and future problems. This means guaranteeing a smooth transition from the developer to the syndicate, thus ensuring a well-managed co-ownership from its creation, anticipating challenges and making informed choices that will ensure the sustainability of your property.


Valérie Vincent
Director technical projects 


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