THE UPS AND DOWNS OF TENANT MANAGEMENT IN CO-OWNERSHIP: WHEN THINGS GO WRONG!
For a co-owner, renting their private unit is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
If in general things run smoothly and the experience with the tenant is positive, the relationship between the syndicate and the co-owner often remains delicate. Unfortunately, it happens (still too often) that a co-owner must manage, from a distance, a disruptive tenant or unforeseen situations with respect to the neighbours and the maintenance of their unit.
Sure the Declaration of co-ownership sets out the rules of co-ownership life, including the terms and conditions for renting the units, and the tenant must comply with them, but what can a co-owner do when their tenant does not follow the rules? Even worse, what if they are causing a disturbance for the neighbours or the life of the co-ownership? What are the means available to the co-owner or the syndicate to enforce the declaration?
There can be a case where work necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the building must be undertaken by the syndicate within the apartment. But what does one do if this work makes the apartment unlivable? Or if the common amenities are suspended because of the work, such as access to the pool, the training room, or the sports center?
The landlord has many responsibilities towards their tenant. Few know that they must also maintain their responsibilities with respect to the syndicate.
Conflicts Between Neighbours
Essentially, the co-owner must keep in mind that it is not just a matter of dealing with a difficult tenant. Indeed, not respecting the declaration or the by-laws can cause prejudice to the building or the neighbours. To resolve conflicts between the tenant and the other co-owners or the syndicate, communication and transparency are key.
The co-owner can first try to dialogue with their tenant and remind them of the rules of which they are already aware. In principle, the syndicate is not meant to take any action against the tenant. However, in certain cases, the syndicate could take action, for example by requesting the termination of a lease.
It is important to remember that the syndicate represents all co-owners and ensures that life in the co-ownership runs smoothly. In this sense, it can take the necessary steps to ensure that the declaration of co-ownership and the by-laws are respected, for the benefit of all co-owners.
Lack of civic-mindedness, behavioural problems by the tenant, noise disturbances, violation of the rules of the co-ownership or common areas … The situation can sometimes reach a boiling point between the tenant and the neighbours.
It is up to the co-owner to act as an intermediary. They are not released from any of their obligations and are responsible for the actions of their tenant; it is therefore up to them to act, under penalty of a fine or other types of sanction provided for in the regulations. It is the co-owner’s responsibility to put an end to the disturbance and to repair the resulting damages if any.
SYNDICATE OF CO-OWNERS’ RECOURSES
The syndicate does not have to wait for the co-owner before taking matters into their hands. Depending on the situation, several legal mechanisms are at its disposal. Since the tenant is an occupant of the co-ownership, the syndicate could address him directly by official means (letter, notice) or even a formal demand. In principle, the co-owner and the tenant should always be informed at the same time by the syndicate of the non-compliance with the rules of the declaration of co-ownership or of the issue caused by the tenant.
The syndicate may also turn to the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL) – the Administrative Housing Tribunal – to resolve a dispute for which there is no amicable solution. Article 1079 of the Civil Code of Québec provides that the syndicate may file an application directly with the TAL to obtain the termination of a lease if what is alleged against the tenant causes serious prejudice to another occupant of the building. It can also act directly against the co-owner and hold them liable. The latter will then in turn have to take action against their tenant.
It is, therefore, necessary to be particularly vigilant especially if the neighbours complain! As a co-owner or tenant of a co-owned unit, it is essential to be aware of the laws in effect, the rules of the building, and the consequences of your actions.
PEACEFUL ENJOYMENT OF THE UNIT
On the other hand, sometimes it is the tenant who is the victim of disturbances or inconveniences that interfere with his or her full enjoyment of the unit for which he or she pays rent.
The co-owner who rents his dwelling will have to compensate the tenant if he is himself responsible or at the origin of the inconvenience which disturbs the peaceful enjoyment of the unit. The tenant, on the other hand, can take action against the syndicate, specifically if the syndicate is responsible for the damage caused, such as a construction defect or a lack of maintenance of the common areas.
Other situations where the tenant may be subject to prejudice include work done inside the unit or in the common areas, sometimes limiting access to these living spaces. When the work is not urgent and decided solely by the co-owner lessor, the latter must avoid doing it during the lease if it disturbs the tenant or modifies “the form of the leased property,” in this case the unit (see article 1723 of the Civil Code of Québec).
With regard to work outside the unit, “No co-owner may interfere with the carrying out, even inside his private portion, of work required for the preservation of the immovable decided upon by the syndicate or of urgent work.” (article 1066 of the Civil Code of Québec). Thus, a co-owner - and by extension, their tenant - cannot prevent the execution of urgent or necessary work for the conservation of the building and the private or common portions. When the unit is rented, it is the responsibility of the syndicate to give formal notice of the work to be done in the co-ownership. This notice must be sent at least 24 hours prior to the work.
If the work requires access to the unit, or that the tenant must vacate for a certain period of time, the law also provides that the syndicate will have to pay the tenant compensation to cover the related expenses. In cases where the co-owner must make repairs to their unit or carry out urgent work, the tenant will have to be patient, unless the work lasts more than 40 days. The tenant could ask for a rent reduction or even the termination of the lease if the unit becomes uninhabitable.
To be vigilant and well informed remains one of the best ways to avoid complications in the relationship between the syndicate, the co-owner, and the tenant, and to maintain a harmonious community life in a co-ownership. Or at least, it can limit the potential problems. Knowing one’s rights and responsibilities, with regards to the declaration of co-ownership, the by-laws, and the law, contributes to a certain serenity and a reduction of disruption risks, allowing each occupant to fully enjoy the advantages and pleasures of community life!Condoliaison Vol.22 No4
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