Divided co-ownership, as the name implies, permits the division of a building into fractions. A fraction may belong to one or more persons. Each owner of a fraction has the exclusive ownership of a private portion of the immovable, and has an undivided right of ownership, that is, a share proportionate to the relative value of his fraction, in the common portions of the immovable. The common portions belong to all the co-owners. The declaration of co-ownership may restrict some common portions to exclusive use by a co-owner (e.g. a private balcony adjacent to a private portion may be a common portion for restricted use).
Say, for example, that you buy the second floor in a three-storey condominium. You are the sole owner of the second floor (the exclusive portion). You and your two neighbours on the first and third floors also own shares of the common portions, such as the outside walls, the land, the roof, and so forth.
In the illustration, the grey areas belong to you alone;
the white areas belong to all the co-owners.
Can I borrow to purchase a condominium unit (co-ownership fraction)?
Each owner of a fraction may hypothecate it (give it as security) to guarantee the repayment of the sums borrowed to purchase it. Each hypothec is separate. Condominium owners are not affected by a neighbour’s hypothecary difficulties.
What precautions should I take before buying a condominium?
Each condominium is governed by a notarial declaration of co-ownership. It goes without saying that a purchaser should always read the declaration of co-ownership carefully and understand its scope and meaning before making a final commitment. As a wise condominium buyer, you will also be concerned about the quality of management of the property. You should check out the various condominium expenses and fees thoroughly. But most important, before you sign any document, consult your notary. He or she is a specialist in condominium law.
YOUR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
What does the declaration of co-ownership cover?
The declaration of co-ownership divides the property into fractions. It includes the act constituting the co-ownership, the by-laws of the immovable, and a description of the fractions.
The constituting act of co-ownership specifies the relative value of each fraction, indicating how that value was determined. It also determines, as a function of the relative value, the contribution of each fraction to the common expenses of the immovable, the contingency fund established by law, and the number of votes attached to each fraction. The constituting act defines the destination or purpose of the immovable, i.e. the use (commercial or industrial, for example) the owners may make of it, as well as the destination of the private and common portions. The act also sets out the powers and duties of the board of directors of the syndicate and the general meeting of co-owners.
A detailed by-law stipulates rules on the enjoyment, use and upkeep of the private and common portions. For example, it might specify that no animals are allowed in the units. The by-laws also contain rules for the operation and administration of the co-ownership, in particular, the composition of the board of directors and the conditions relating to the office of administrator.
The description of the fractions contains the cadastral description of the private portions and the common portions of the immovable. It also contains a description of the real rights affecting or existing in favour of the immovable.
The owners’ association or “syndicate” and the general meeting of co-owners.
What are the roles of the condominium syndicate and the general meeting of co-owners?
The syndicate is created when condominium ownership is established, to ensure that the property is preserved, maintained and administered. The board of directors is the administrative arm of the syndicate. The directors adopt the budget for the condominium property.
The general meeting of co-owners examines issues involving all the condominium owners. Each owner is entitled to vote at this meeting, according to the number of votes he or she has.
SALE AND HYPOTHEC
What conditions govern the sale and hypothecation of a fraction of divided co-ownership?
Each condominium owner is free to sell or hypothecate his or her fraction. However, the declaration of co-ownership may contain restrictions. You should ask your notary for information on the precautions you should take.