There was an interesting and quite disturbing story in Quebec City's Le Soleil newspaper recently about a couple from the Chaudière region. They thought they'd bought their dream home on a cliff overlooking the Chaudière river.They made a winning bid on the property and promptly sold their own home and got ready to move.
Everything came to a crashing halt on the day the transaction was to close. That's when the notary noticed that the certificate of location - the legal document that describes the exact dimensions of the property as well as any thing built or placed in a permanent manner on the site - dated from 2002.
If there is one thing that real estate brokers should know, it is that we have an obligation to check that the certificate of location is up to do date when we take new listings. As a rule of thumb, a certificate that is more than five years old is getting pretty long in the tooth.
Besides, Quebec undertook a major reform of its land registry system in 1994, a process that continued until 2011. The net result was that the cadastral numbers - the land registry numbers unique to each lot in Quebec - have changed.
To be on the safe side, we tell clients to order a new certificate from a land surveyor so that we can be sure that the document we hand over to the notary for the closing accurately reflects the actual state of the property being sold and bears the correct cadastral number.
Apparently the listing agent for this property did not do this basic bit of homework. As it turns out, in 2006 Quebec Civil Security department began reviewing zones throughout the province that were thought to be at risk of flood, cave-in and landslide.
It turns out that the buyers were purchasing a house in a zone that had been classified as at risk for landslides. If the listing agent had done his or her job, the buyers would have known of this danger ahead of time and would never have purchased the property.
Happily, the diligent notary caught the problem. Unfortunately, that didn't happen until have the buyers had sold their own home. They sold one house and couldn't take possession of the other. They were homeless for a number of weeks and forced to scramble to find a place to live.They also incurred expenses they shouldn't have.
What's the moral of this story? If you are a vendor, make sure your certificate of location is up to date when putting your property up for sale. It could save you last minute headaches down the line.
If you're a buyer, ask to see the certificate of location before closing a deal to be sure that the certificate is up to date and reflects the actual state of the property. I had a friend, not a client, who bought a condo with a huge fenced roof-top terrace. It was only after the closing that she discovered the terrace was being tolerated by the owner of the roof and was in fact about half the size advertised. Her agent never showed her the certificate of location.
The buyers of that dream home are now suing the broker who didn't do his or her homework. Something tells me whatever money the win won't completely erase the sting of losing that house.