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Papineau Avocats Inc.

When co-ownership rhymes with hardship

by Isabelle Audet, La Presse.

Today in Montreal, a group of experts in co-ownership is giving a conference bluntly entitled : « How to avoid and manage co-ownership crisis. » Paradoxically, the participating lawyers will advise the public on ways to elude their services.

Quarrels on special contribution for emergency repair or a delinquent co-owner can degenerate and co-ownership is not protected against it. This community life is like a marriage of convenience between many people and it requires a minimum of tolerance as well as complete observance of the co-ownership declaration.

« Sometimes there is a build up », explains Mᵉ Yves Joli-Cœur, expert in real estate law. « When you cannot have a goodnight sleep because of a disturbing neighbor, a misunderstanding on a complete different subject can bear huge consequences. »

Money is the most frequent starting point in the majority of crisis in co-ownership. «The classic situation? A building with bad maintenance for years, and then new administrators notify the co-owners that they now must contribute to very costly repairs. The co-owners that collectively let the situation deteriorate need to find a scapegoat. Shouting begins and it’s suddenly a madhouse. »

How do you get out of that mess? Mᵉ Yves Papineau, another participating lawyer, reflects that, most of the times, a calm analysis of the situation will do it. It can often save you thousands of dollars.

« Sometimes, legal recourses are inevitable, but municipal bylaws and provincial laws may help resolve the issues. It can take a long time before a municipal inspector comes to ask your neighbor to pick up the pile of waste he’s growing on his balcony. An injonction would bring faster results but when I explain to the co-owners that they will have to spend thousand of dollars in lawyers fees, they ususally calm down », explains Mᵉ Papineau.

During his whole career in real estate law, the lawyer only went twice before a judge. All his other cases were settled out of court.

Be ready for the worse.

Sometimes, even if co-owners try to analyse the situation with calm, a squabble has spreaded in the building for good. The administrators call a meeting to discuss the issue but it will likely be stormy.

« Money issues can bring normal people to a panic state and will instantly change them into werewolves », Mᵉ Yves Joli-Cœur depicts.

Administrators often being volunteers , feel helpless in front of the furiousness of a good part of the co-owners. How to resolve such a crisis? One can start his phrases with « your question makes sense » or « you are bringing up a good point ». The lawyer says that you can calm everybody down with good psychological know-how and cold blood.

« However, the law must always prevail on psychology in order to maintain some harmony », he adds. For example, the co-owners better understand the issues, when you explain that they will lose their insurance benefits if they refuse to see to the upkeep of their building. Usually, they all agree that the best idea is to undertake the work ».

Both lawyers, Yves Joli-Cœur et Yves Papineau, would, however, say that co-ownership fortunately brings much more than fights. « In a group of about 40 people, you won’t find more than 2 or 3 moody members, and, with a good meeting president, it will be possible to avoid big problems in most instances », says Mᵉ Joli-Cœur.

« Besides, it is not always better in a bungalow », says Mᵉ Papineau. When you live in a house and your neighbor lets his children shout in the backyard at six in the morning, what can you do? In co-ownership, you can talk to the janitor or bring it up in a meeting, and chances are that the problem will resolve rapidly. There are many good sides to community life, but it has to be well organised ».


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