Horizontal co-ownership

When you buy a condo (apartment) in a high-rise apartment, you become the owner of a vertical co-ownership. But it is also possible to end up in divided co-ownership, if you set your sights on a house (e.g., detached, townhouse or semi-detached) that is built on the same lot as other houses. In this case, it is a horizontal co-ownership.

If this is the case, you may not be the sole owner of the land surrounding your home. You will therefore share with others the ownership of the private streets leading to the homes and common portions, and the common equipment such as the swimming pool and collective parking.

Common legal regime

Horizontal co-ownerships are governed by the same rules of the Civil Code of Québec than vertical co-ownerships. They are both subject to the registration of a declaration of co-ownership, and governed by Divided Co-Ownership Law, which requires the appointment of one or more directors and holding meetings of co-owners.

Horizontal cadastral plan

To create a vertical co-ownership, a land surveyor must prepare a horizontal cadastral plan, which will allow the allocation of separate lot numbers to each private and common portion. The land so divided in lots includes:

  • Private portions: the houses;
  • Common portions: the land on which the common equipment is situated (such as: roadways, a swimming poolpark and tennis court).

Contrary to residential towers, the lots are not superimposed; they are side by side. Each private portion includes the entire immovable, the space situated above it, up to a point above the horizon called zenith (in astronomy), along with the ground underneath, to a point situated in the center of the Earth, designated nadir. The boundaries of each lot are only those that make up its perimeter. Consequently, you are the only owner of your house.

Insurance coverages

Just like in vertical co-ownerships, syndicates of horizontal co-ownership must subscribe and maintain the insurance coverages required by Law. Yet, it is not a rare occurrence in horizontal co-ownership that the syndicate insures only the common portions. Many co-owners believe, wrongly – especially in co-ownerships comprising semi-detached homes – that they need to get insurance only for their dwelling and that in all logic, the insurance of the syndicate is not required for their private portion. In the case of a loss, the financial consequences can be dramatic for the co-owners and the directors as the latter could be held liable personally and even found guilty of gross negligence. This scenario can also have a negative impact on the resale of the said housing units.

Maintenance, repairs and replacement work

Contrary to vertical co-ownership, the envelope and the structure of the building in a horizontal co-ownership are not common portions. Therefore, there will be no need for a contingency fund to provide for the replacement of the roof or the windows, when they reach the end of their useful life. Furthermore, the work to keep the building up to standards will be carried out by the owner of each residential unit. Nevertheless, a contingency fund must be implemented to ensure the funding of the major repairs or the replacement work of common portions (such as: the replacement work of the sanitary sewer pipes).

Negligence of a co-owner to see to the maintenance of his private portion

Almost every declaration of co-ownership provides as follows: if a co-owner neglects to carry out necessary work in his privative portion, the syndicate can carry it on its behalf. On this issue, article 1039 of the Civil Code of Quebec was amended by Bill 16. Speaking of the community of co-owners, and by extension of the syndicate of co-owners, an addition at the end of the first paragraph of this article reads as follows: " The legal person must, in particular, see to it that the work necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the immovable is carried out."

And if such negligence causes damage to other co-owners, he may engage his civil liability. In such cases, the work undertaken by the syndicate may be at its expense.

Co-ownerships in phases

The concept of horizontal co-ownership is also used in co-ownerships in phases, by the method of concomitant declarations of co-ownership. In such cases, each residential tower (such as: phases I, II and III) will be governed by a vertical declaration of co-ownership. The equipment and land common to the various phases, including the land surrounding the towers, the roadways and the swimming pool, will be governed by an initial or horizontal declaration of co-ownership.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW! Residential towers or small buildings in which at least two private portions are superimposed, are designated as vertical co-ownerships.

https://www.condolegal.com/images/Boutons_encadres/A_retenir.pngWHAT TO KEEP IN MIND: Horizontal and vertical co-ownership are governed by the same articles of the Civil Code of Québec. The administration and the management of a horizontal co-ownership are not different from a vertical co-ownership. In both cases, one must hold meetings of co-owners, appoint directors and prepare a provisional budget to pay the various expenses of the co-ownership.

WARNING! Many horizontal co-ownerships are dysfunctional, either on account of the ignorance of the rules of co-ownership, or by a lack of willingness on the part of the co-owners to manage their co-ownership.



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