Quebec has its own set of rules
When buying a house in Quebec, the first thing to know is: “You know nothing” (John Snow). Ok, yes, I watch Game of Thrones! Seriously, you don’t know much though! The rest of Canada follows Common Law whereas here in Quebec, we have our own rule book – The Civil Code. Very generally speaking (since I am not a lawyer), Common Law is case law and Civil Law is codified statutes.
On top of that, we have very tough Real Estate Laws and a fierce regulatory body call the OACIQ, which oversees all real estate brokers. The OACIQ – Organisme d’autoréglementation du courtage immobilier du Québec (loosely translated as the Self Governing Organization of Quebec Real Estate) has as its mission “to protect the public by overseeing the profession adequately and ensuring quality real estate and mortgage brokerage in Québec.” It’s better know by brokers as the real estate police!
Oh, and there are no real estate agents in Quebec – we are either Real Estate Brokers or Chartered Real Estate Brokers. While both are qualified to guide you through the process of buying or selling a property, Chartered Brokers (like myself) have taken extra legal and business courses so that we can manage a Real Estate Agency (not Office – Agency). However, a Real Estate Broker, Chartered or not, is not authorized nor qualified to give legal advice.
More important than the different names are the different laws and regulations. The OACIQ has created mandatory real estate procedures and forms for every situation, in order to protect both the buyer and the seller. Brokerage Contracts and Promises to Purchases (offers) are standard forms, so no party can write up their own version of an offer form. The Promises to Purchase are legally binding contracts that don’t require lawyers to be involved. When a Promise to Purchase is accepted and all the conditions are removed, the paperwork will be sent to a notary who acts for both parties – neutrally – to finalise the sale.
When you are in negotiations and setting deadlines for conditions, be aware that in Quebec, there is no such thing as ‘Business Days’ vs ‘Calendar Days’. In Quebec, days are just days! Sundays and holidays are just days like any other.
Who gets to choose the notary? The notary is decided on in the negotiations in the Promise to Purchase, although it is usually the buyer who chooses. The notary does the title searches and reviews the documents to ensure all is in order, verifies that all taxes are up to date, organises the mortgage with the buyer’s bank and disburses the proceeds. Then, everybody gets to pay the notary! The buyer usually pays the most, on average $1000. The cost to the seller depends on the number of liens (legal mortgages/hypotecs) on the property. Generally, it’s under $500, but it depends on the notary.
Getting the non-mortgaged money to the notary is also important. Be aware that the funds must be in the notary’s trust account 48 hours before the signing of the deeds. This means free and clear in the account; surprisingly certified cheques are held by banks for days! A bank transfer is usually the best way to get your money to the notary quickly and safely.
In Ontario and other parts of Canada, when you sign and pay, you get the keys immediately – not in Quebec! Here you sign, pay, activate your insurance and then let the seller live in the house for another 2-4 days! The seller needs to wait two days for his proceeds to clear from the sale so that he can pay for his next house. Then he lets the other seller do the same thing, hence the 4 days. To compensate you while you wait the seller will continue to pay for the taxes until your occupancy date. Most out of province buyers are amazed by this delay but it all comes back to the registry office. The notary must register the new deed of sale at the registry office to make it official and the delay allows to notary to ensure there are no outstanding liens against the property. A lien registered against a house would make it impossible for the vendor to sell, so this delay decreases the chances of this happening. Don’t worry – in all my years as a real estate broker, I have never seen this happen. If it did, the notary would advise you of the steps to follow.
The Welcome Tax
So, congratulations you bought a house! Did you notice there were no transfer duties or taxes paid at the notary’s office? That’s because in Quebec, we let you move in, start enjoying your new home and then send you a whopping “Welcome Tax” bill six weeks later!
It is a transfer tax but it is better known as the Welcome Tax, in reference to the Minister of Municipal Affairs who introduced it: Minister Bienvenue (or Mr. Welcome in English). The tax amount can be very high so make sure you are prepared for the bill as you only have 30 days to pay it.
The Welcome Tax is calculated in two steps:
The ins and outs of transfer duties are set out in An Act respecting duties on transfers of immovables (the “Act”).
The amount is always based on the higher of three amounts:
- The final sale price of the property (excluding GST PST if applicable)
- The municipal evaluation at the time of its transfer. Some cities even multiply the base number (sale price or evaluation) by 1.01 or even as high as 1.11 to create the final taxable amount.
- The amount of the consideration stipulated in the act of sale, if different from the price paid (e. in a Gifting situation)
Then the tax is calculated as follows:
0.5% on the first $50,000
1% on the amount from $50,000 to $250,000
1.5% on the amount from $250,000 to $500,000
2% on the amount over $500,000*
So, for example, a property with a tax base as 350,000 would be taxed
$250 on the first $50,000
$2000 on the next $200,000
And $1500 on the extra $100,000
Totaling $3750 to be paid within 30 days of receiving the bill. Welcome to Quebec!!
These are just a few of the more important aspects of Quebec Real Estate Law, your Real Estate Broker will keep you informed and ensure your transaction goes smoothly.
*For attached properties in the City of Montreal,
a rate of 2.5% is applicable on the basis of imposition which exceeds one million dollars.
**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**