A notice of defect or of non-compliance is a document issued by the municipal or provincial
In Quebec, several instances could lead to this type of notice.
The Régie du bâtiment
Inspection services of the various municipalities or the different boroughs such as in the city of Montreal
The fire department services
No matter the year of construction, all buildings are subject to certain codes or by-laws. They are all subject to an inspection carried out by municipal or provincial authorities. For example, the city of Montreal has a by-law about sanitation and another called the Housing By-law. These by-laws apply to all dwelling units. At the provincial level, for apartment buildings, the regulation applies only for buildings with more than two stories and with nine dwelling units or more.
Following the inspection, authorities will send the building owner a notice in which they will list all the defects identified by the inspector. Sometimes, it could be simple measures like making sure there are fire extinguishers or smoke detectors located in the apartments. However, defects are often related to items that require more complex corrective measures like those for the exit configuration or the integrity of building fire separations. In this case, the owner has to carry out major modifications that could involve significant expenses. When this occurs, the building owner may be dismayed to learn that the building he has owned for many years has to suddenly comply with requirements that he has never heard about.
Why all these requirements?
What a landlord must understand is that these requirements have been developed to ensure the safety of occupants by providing, for example, fire detection equipment and adequate means of exiting the building. Development of minimal standards based on past experience has allowed incidents of death to decrease during a fire in buildings. A building owner, therefore, has the duty to carry out the required modifications to comply with the applicable regulation.
What you have to know
It is not always possible to implement required corrective measures in an existing building and this could be related, for example, to architectural constraints.
Objectives aimed by the regulation can often be achieved through alternative solutions providing an equivalent level of safety.
In this context, the first thing is to evaluate the nature of the problem identified by the inspector and then to establish, if necessary, an alternative approach that is compatible with the objectives of the regulation. These alternative approaches were called up until now “equivalent measures” or “different measures”. The National Building Code 2005, published by the National Research Council of Canada, now uses the expression “alternative solutions”. Whatever it is called, it should be remembered that it is possible to develop alternative solutions that can be proposed to the pertinent authorities. A committee will than evaluate the relevance of the proposal, and establish if the objectives of the regulation are achieved. If this is the case, the proposal should in principle be approved.
Of course, the development of alternative solutions requires a good understanding of the requirements and the stakes involved in the safety of occupants. As such, you can find specialists able to help you develop and propose these solutions to the pertinent authorities having jurisdiction. They can also help you establish a less expensive approach for all correctives measures to be carried out.
It is often better to consult a specialist or an architect, even if it is only to better understand what is really required in the notice of defects. Simple solutions can sometimes be applied to avoid costly work and many worries.
Sylvie Destroismaisons, architect
Consultant in building regulation