Access to the register of co-ownership
The legislator has included in the law some dispositions meant to ensure a better control over the syndicate of co-ownership by its directors. Notably, the syndicate must keep a register of co-ownership.
According to section 1070 C.c.Q., « the syndicate keeps a register at the disposal of the co-owners containing the name and address of each co-owner and each lessee, the minutes of the meetings of the co-owners and of the board of directors and the financial statements. It also keeps at their disposal the declaration of co-ownership, the copies of the contracts to which it is a party, a copy of the cadastral plan, the plans and specifications of the immovable built and all other documents relating to the immovable and the syndicate ».
So section 1070 C.c.Q. clearly gives a large access to the register of co-ownership and to other documents to every co-owner. The words « all other documents relating to the immovable » are added to include any other document not mentioned in the preceding enumeration. The syndicate would then be well advised to preserve all the documents relating to the co-ownership and to give a free access to them in order to prevent any suspicion about their management on the co-owners' part.
Although the free access to the register of co-ownership is a legal right of the co-owners, the syndicate should establish a procedure preventing an excessive use of this right. For instance, a zealous co-owner could constantly be asking to verify the day to day actions of the syndicate. The best solution for this kind of problem is to establish a formal procedure regarding the consultation of the documents. If the declaration of co-ownership does not include one, the syndicate shoud adopt a regulation dealing with the most common matters: appointing someone in charge of the register of co-ownership and of book-keeping, fixing his hourly rate when supervising a request and establishing a time-frame for this service. Stipulating that co-owners should produce written and detailed requests at least 48 hours in advance is also a good practice. It will then be possible for the administrators to check on the availability of the documents required and also on the legitimacy of the request. The written request should be kept in file in order to demonstrate any abuse, when it is the case.
Section 1070 C.c.Q. does not grant a right to obtain copies of the documents. There again, the syndicate should adopt a regulation and determine a fee for the copies. This will help to keep the number of requests and of abusive interventions manageable.
The syndicate has the obligation to make sure that no request violates the Loi sur l'accès aux documents des organismes publics et sur la protection des renseignements personnels. Notably, the syndicate shall not give to a third party any information that could compromise a negociation in view of an agreement. This applies when there is a negociation to sign a contract or when there is an insurance claim.
The syndicate shall also protect at all times the personal information about the individuals. According to section 37 C.c.Q. the syndicate shall not communicate information that may invade the privacy or damage the reputation of the co-owner concerned. Notably, any written statement, other than factual or legal, that would include personal comments or feelings on an individual is forbidden and shall not be communicated. Incidentally, the syndicate shall not establish a file on a co-owner without having a serious and legitimate reason for doing so. So, never underestimate the importance of evaluating the legitimacy of consultation requests.
In this matter, the research of a common ground resulting in a good understanding between the co-owners is the goal to reach. Notwithstanding the fact that the law grants each co-owner the right to consult the co-ownership register and other documents, it is well advised to set up some rules to ease up the consultation process. A good-faith collaboration between openminded administrators and considered co-owners will certainly reduce the chance of abuse in the consultation right process. The documents must always remain with the syndicate and copies can be made: never let a co-owner leave with original documents that he might never bring back...