Even though the syndicate is responsible for drawing up the description of the private portions, the co-owners must also participate in that task, and approve the final description. This is all the more important for co-ownerships that are not new or recent builds.
This description may, for example, include the walls, floors and ceiling of a unit. It may also include the cupboards and basic elements such as the bath, sink, kitchen cupboards, as well as personal property that is permanently affixed to the building. In short, the description of the private portions must include everything that is not an improvement.
What the law says
Your syndicate is required to make a description of the private portions available to all the co-owners (ref. : art. 1070 §3 C.c.Q.). This description serves to differentiate what is an improvement in a private portion from what is not.
Note, however, that the legislation does not prescribe the elements that must be included in the description. Therefore, the syndicate may decide to describe a unit as it is today or it may decide to describe it as it was when it was built. This description must, however, be approved by the co-owners as provided by law.
All the elements that are not included in the description of the private portions provided by your syndicate are considered to be improvements that must also be insured under your co-owner insurance.
In the absence of a description of the private portions, the syndicate is then responsible for insuring the entire building and it is considered as having no improvement in the units of the co-owners. A situation that could put them, in the event of a claim, in a situation where their insurance would be insufficient to cover the damage.
The description of the private portions
The description of the private portions is a document that is part of the co-ownership register, just like the Declaration of Co-Ownership, building by-laws and financial statements.
" The private portions are standard elements of a condo and are insured by the syndicate. "
This exercise is important to ensure that the syndicate, like the co-owners, have sufficient insurance to cover the elements they are responsible for insuring. If a claim is filed, the description of the private portions helps determine who pays what: the syndicate’s insurance, the co-owner’s insurance, or both.
What if the condo units are not all the same?
There can be one or more descriptions in a same co-ownership building. The syndicate can draw up:
- a specific description for each unit;
- a description for all units that are similar;
- a single and sole description for all units.
Can a co-owner have a say?
Once the description has been completed, what must the syndicate do?
The syndicate must make sure the description is approved by the meeting of the co-owners according to the established by-laws. Once approved, it must be kept with the other co-ownership documents: plans, specifications, Declaration of Co-Ownership, etc.
It must be available to all co-owners who ask to consult it and must be included in the co-ownership register. It may be needed by insurers when underwriting, or following a claim.
Does the description need to be modified if a co-owner makes changes to his unit?
In principle, no. The description is a “photo’ of the unit at a precise moment decided by the syndicate. Changes made by the co-owner which add value to the unit are generally considered to be improvements, as they do not appear in the reference unit description.
However, if the changes modify the reference standard established initially, the description of the private portions should be modified, and the changes included in the description of the private portion. They will not be deemed improvements. Note that a change in the description of the private portions must always be approved by all of the co-owners.
Tool for syndicates
Insurance Bureau of Canada makes a tool available to syndicates to help them draw up the description of the private portions of their building: