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Tuesday May 21 2024

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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