Chance Card: Notice of Deterioration? – The Consequences of Non-Conformity to Maintenance, Safety and Sanitation Laws in Quebec

Written by Aubie J. Herscovitch and Alexander Rigante

Co-written by Alexander Rigante, articling student

Monopoly is a globally renowned board game where players compete in the purchase, acquisition and development of immovable properties. The objective of the game is to dominate the fictional real-estate market, eventually driving your opponents to bankruptcy.

While the game’s principal focus is the purchase and development of property, some of the real-world aspects of running a real estate operation that the game fails to address are the maintenance, safety and sanitation obligations ancillary to property ownership. More important are the penalties that may follow in the event a property owner fails to comply with the municipal and provincial legislation that dictate these obligations.

This article examines the rules and regulations regarding the maintenance, safety and sanitation of buildings in Quebec. Emphasis is placed on the penalties and powers that municipal authorities can avail themselves of should a property owner fail to maintain the safety and sanitation standards established under provincial and municipal legislation.

1. Loi sur l’aménagement et l’urbanisme – A-19.1

According to the Loi sur l’amenagement et l’urbanisme, every municipality within Quebec is responsible for adopting a regulation regarding the maintenance of buildings and properties within its territorial jurisdiction1. These regulations are adopted with the objective of promoting public safety and sanitation and, to preserve the integrity of the buildings and properties within Quebec.

In Montreal, the Règlement sur la salubrité, l’entretien et la sécurité des logements (RVM 03–096)2 and the Règlement sur l’entretien des bâtiments (RVM 07–034)3 , are two municipal regulations adopted to promote proper sanitation, maintenance and safety of housing and residential buildings. These regulations establish minimum standards including the amenities required in residential units, ventilation, habitable surface areas and lighting. The regulations also grant municipal authorities with inspection, verification and disciplinary powers.

The importance of verifying municipal regulations within this context does not go understated. Minimum standards may vary as each municipality has the authority to adopt its own set of regulations and penalties. Moreover, the Loi sur l’amenagement et l’urbanisme provides municipalities with an arsenal of recourses and disciplinary mechanisms to ensure that property owners respect the municipal regulations. These powers are comprehensive and can be quite severe. Below are some examples.

2. Notice of Deterioration

One corrective measure that a municipal authority may avail itself of in the event that a property owner is non-compliant with the regulations is the notice of deterioration. A municipality may require the repair or maintenance of a building it deems non-compliant with its regulations. To do so, the municipality gives a written notice of deterioration to the owner of the building, indicating the repairs required to bring the building into compliance and the necessary time limit.

In the event the property owner fails to make the necessary repairs within the delay set out in the notice, the municipal authority can escalate the matter by registering the notice of deterioration against the building at the Quebec Land Registry.

3. Registration of the Notice at the Land Registry

The registration of the notice of deterioration at the Québec Land Registry against the property is another step in a series of corrective measures that a municipal authority can avail itself of in the event of regulatory non-compliance4. This registration lists the owner’s name and address, indicates that the building is in a state of deterioration and specifies the repairs to be made. All holders of a real right on the property will be sent a copy of the notice.

Should the necessary repairs be made to the property, the municipal authority will, within 60 days of the ascertainment of such repairs, register a notice of regularization at the Québec Land Registry. Moreover, the municipal authority will, within 20 days of such ascertainment, notify all holders of a real right on the property of such regularization5.

4. Repairs at Owner’s Expense

In the event the property owner omits to carry out the necessary repairs, the municipal authority can petition the Superior Court of Quebec to authorize the completion of the repairs outlined in the notice of deterioration at the property owner’s expense6.

The cost of the repairs will constitute a prior claim on the building, on the same basis and at the same rank as claims referred to in paragraph 5 of Article 2651 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which prior claim is preferred over other creditors, even hypothecary creditors”7. Moreover, the cost of repairs will be guaranteed by a legal hypothec on the building8.

5. Expropriation or Acquisition

The final and most severe compliance mechanism that a municipal authority may employ should the property owner fail to respect the municipality’s maintenance, safety and sanitation regulations is the expropriation or acquisition of the building in question.

The Loi sur l’amenagement et l’urbanisme allows the municipal authority to acquire a building by mutual agreement or by expropriation, following the 60th day in which the notice of deterioration has been registered. This recourse is only possible if the building in question is in a state of dilapidation or disrepair, and if it presents a risk to the health or safety of persons9.

6. Fines

Lastly, the Loi sur l’amenagement et l’urbanisme allows municipal authorities to establish fines to sanction violations of their respective maintenance, safety and sanitation regulations10. For example, in Montreal, corporations in violation of the Règlement sur la salubrité, l’entretien et la sécurité des logements (RVM 03–096) can expect fines amounting to 5 400 $ for a first-time offence, and up to 20 000 $ in the event of recidivism11.

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, the comprehensive and far-reaching powers provided to municipalities to ensure compliance with the maintenance, safety and sanitation of immovable properties within their respective territories demonstrates the value that the Quebec legislature places in this policy objective. Remaining compliant with the existing municipal and provincial regulatory framework is necessary to ensure a profitable, productive and high quality real estate operation.

1) Loi sur l’aménagement et l’urbanisme – A-19.1, section 145.41. 2) RVM 03–096, 3) RVM 07–034, 4) Prec. Note, 1, section 145.41.1. 5) Prec. Note, 1, section 145.41.2. 6) Prec. Note, 1, section 145.41.3. 7) Civil Code of Quebec – CQLR c CCQ-1991, section 2650. 8) Prec. Note, 1, section, 145.41. 9) Prec. Note, 1, section 145.41.5. 10) Prec. Note, 1, section 145.41.6. 11) Prec. Note, 2, section 60.