Grandfather clause


j-a-macGrandfather clause is a term used to explain the right a building has related to when it was built.  Our landscape is full of buildings from different eras. The laws applicable at the time of construction change over time so in consequence if you live in an old row house with a non conforming stair; that stair can remain, as dangerous as it is; because it was built in a bye gone era and its ‘grandfathered’.

The building code under its current iteration is transforming itself into an instrument to be interpreted. Since the building code is a series of laws the code itself is now being interpreted as law and can be argued as such.  Jurisprudence is being implemented and it puts the odes on the stamping consultant to interpret their judgment should a dispute arise.

I bring this up to clarify something many folks don’t understand but will become clear.  If you have a grandfather clause building and you undertake a major renovation you in effect lose your grandfather clause and likely will be required to bring your building up to the current code and local bylaws.  It’s simple, if you maintain your building with regular scheduled maintenance you are fine but if you start moving walls and proposing new stairs, you cannot build the new stair like the old. You will have to follow current building codes for design.

This is essentially the reason many folks just leave older buildings for new. It’s simply easier to build from scratch rather than to adapt an old building to new standards. This phenomenon is also known as filtering of the building stock.  Old buildings are usually considered to be filtering down towards the bottom of the housing stock as their designs become obsolete.

At the moment many of Montreal’s inner city boroughs are experiencing a reverse filtering. That is they are being renovated to be resold as condos and they are finding many eager families willing to undertake the expense to convert old buildings to current standards due to the value of a pied a terre en ville.  This type of activity creates tension in boroughs that had a homogeneous population demographically and then all of the sudden has wealthy families inserting themselves into the landscape creating pressure for neighbouring properties to be renovated and low income residence being displaced.

The Montreal metropolitan area is very clear in its promotion of public transit and taxing of Montreal car drivers.  The message is clear; tolls are coming to bridges that access the city; like most US and European cities. We should all use public transit. With this kind of policy Montreal’s dense core is being favoured and predictable consequences are ensuing. Montreal’s inner city is a hot real estate market. Many European and American real-estate businesses are well routed in Montreal’s hot urban scene. There are few economies as potent as Canada’s in the current world economy.

If you need a permit we can help call 514-839-3138.