On paper, all the projects are beautiful and feasible. In action, everything is different. Réno-réalité aims to be a frank testimony on projects that are happy for some or painful for others.

Testimonial: Melanie and Karl, Hochelaga, Montreal

Professional: Marc-André Harnois, General Manager, Consumers Association for Quality in Construction (ACQC)

Start of construction: May 2021

Estimated end of works: October 2023

Mélanie: The renovation project consists of completely renovating a triplex in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Everything was stripped. The work consists of redoing the structure for the three floors (raw carpentry), the fire-resistant party wall, the exterior masonry of the party wall, the rough and finishing electricity, the rough and finishing plumbing, the doors and windows, heating and ventilation, insulation, gypsum and joints, floors, ceramics, kitchens, bathrooms and rear balconies.

Melanie: Yes, we hired a general contractor recommended by a group of girls I trusted. I did the usual checks (Régie du bâtiment du Québec – RBQ, Revenu Québec). It was in order. I never imagined that I would find myself in the current situation.

Melanie: I felt that the project was not progressing normally around September 2022, but I gave the benefit of the doubt to the contractor with all his representations saying that there were plenty of surprises. I asked in writing in September 2022 to provide me with itemized invoices, to which he replied in the affirmative. I have never received itemized invoices. I also asked to make a lump sum contract. He refused. He wanted to do the structure on time. I paid the first two invoices with considerable amounts in good faith, despite the lack of information on the invoices and the difficulties that this entails for accountability. Then, in February 2023, I ended the collaboration with the contractor. Definitely, at the rate he was working, he was going to take all my budget without finishing the project. I firmly asked to justify all his bills before paying. We have the right to ask what we pay, right? I reasonably refused to pay bills that I did not know what they referred to. Especially since I had asked him for months in writing to justify his bills. This is where the entrepreneur took the drastic measures to get paid: he filed a notice of legal mortgage in March 2023, then, three weeks later, a notice of sale under judicial control in April 2023. Such a disproportionate means for unjustified invoices for which I had already paid considerable sums in excess. The law is wrong! I note that the steps of entrepreneurs in a context like the one I am currently experiencing can be simply abusive.

Mélanie: I requested an expertise in April 2023, with the mandate to assess the deficiencies of the work done as well as the value of the work done. Obviously, the contractor exaggerated his time and slowed down the speed of execution unduly without valid reason, when he had proclaimed himself an expert in this type of project. However, it turns out that the contractor did not follow the architect’s plans or those of the structural engineer. Not only did he not follow these plans, but his work also has major deficiencies.

Melanie: Because the work returned with his invoices had irregularities. In addition, his invoices were not justified or broken down. The invoices had a vague wording: “Renovation Works” with an amount and taxes. To me, that is unacceptable.

Marc-André Harnois, General Manager, Association des consommateurs pour la qualité dans la construction: The situation of Mélanie and Karl is typical of the legal hypothec cases reported to us, a situation that affects approximately 1,000 households each year. Considering there are just over 16,000* contractors in the residential sector, if that’s not super common, it’s not uncommon either.

The legal hypothec is a privilege granted to the construction industry in order to protect it against payment defaults. It is an extremely powerful tool, since it can allow those who benefit from it, ultimately, to have the property sold under judicial order to be paid. That said, this procedure is not automatic either, and it is very rare that it goes that far.

To legitimately benefit from it, the contractor must register it in the Land Registry within 30 days of the end of the work and, if it is a sub-contractor, have denounced its work in writing to the owner before carrying it out. realize.

That said, it is not uncommon for us to be informed of cases where the contractor has registered a legal hypothec in an illegitimate manner (yes, it is possible, the verifications of the Land Registry being very superficial), either because he did it too late, either because the customer was within his right not to pay the full invoice, for example because the work involved defects that needed to be corrected.

When this is the case, the client must then go and defend himself (generally in Superior Court) and demonstrate, for example, that the work contains defects that the contractor refused to correct and that he had to have his costs, that it is the contractor who owes him money and not the other way around and that the legal hypothec must therefore be cancelled. When the dispute concerns a large amount, the situation is therefore generally very similar to what it would have been without a legal hypothec. It is especially when it comes to small claims that the mortgage hurts, because it then forces you to hire a lawyer where it would not otherwise have been necessary. It is in these cases that we see people giving up their rights and paying for work for which they are not satisfied.

Otherwise, if we are heading towards a major dispute and we receive a notice of registration/conservation of a legal hypothec, we must not panic. The house will not be sold at auction overnight. Moreover, it is important to know that the person who registers a legal hypothec has up to six months after the end of the work to begin the procedure allowing you to be dispossessed of your house (register a notice of exercise of a hypothecary right ) or take legal action against you. After this period, the legal hypothec does not erase itself, but it dies out, becoming useless to the person who owns it.

Moreover, if the entrepreneur knows he is at fault, but uses the legal hypothec as a negotiating lever, it is possible that his strategy includes a part of bluffing and that he does not really intend to pay a lawyer to go and lose in front of the judge, especially when a judgment leaves traces. In the negotiation, we must not lose sight of the fact that he too has something to lose.

In addition, filing a complaint with the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) and the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC) can help others avoid the problems you are experiencing.

That said, if you feel that your contractor is acting in good faith and that there is simply a dispute between you, it is possible to substitute the legal hypothec with security, for example by depositing an amount in a trust account, so that the contractor has the certainty that in the event that he wins his case, he can be paid. This is particularly relevant if it allows you to later settle the dispute in Small Claims Court at a lower cost, or if the legal hypothec conflicts with your obligations to your mortgage lender.

Melanie: I invested so much time and money that I want to complete the project with another team. However, reality is catching up: the budget has melted away with this contractor whose work needs to be redone. I’m thinking right now.