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Is your certificate of localisation still valid?

Last updated on December 22, 2023

A certificate of localisation, also known as a location certificate, is theoretically valid as long as it reflects the current state of the property, up to a maximum period of 10 years. However, changes to municipal bylaws and various other factors can render it null and void before that.

Here’s what you need to know to determine if your certificate is still usable or needs to be redone.


How important is a certificate of localisation?

The Regulation Respecting Standards of Practice for Location Certificates (adopted pursuant to the Land Surveyors Act) describes it as a document containing a report and a plan, stating the land surveyor’s opinion on the current situation and state of an immovable property in relation to ownership titles, the cadastre (land register) and the laws and bylaws that may affect it.

It is an official document that the selling party provides the buying party during a real estate transaction. Every property needs one, even vacant lots. Presenting the certificate of localisation is one of the seller’s obligations under clause 1719 of the Civil Code of Québec.

The report

The report, which is several pages long, provides detailed information about the property. It includes the survey date, the updated description, the reference to the last act of ownership (deed of acquisition), the cadastral history, and conformity or non-conformity between the marks of occupation. It also includes other information affecting the land:

  • Any active or passive easements on the property
  • The boundaries that were marked
  • Any apparent easements or any charges that would normally be subject to an easement
  • Any notices of expropriation as well as any notices of reserve for public purposes
  • Whether the land constitutes heritage property
  • Whether the land is or is not located within an agricultural area
  • Any apparent, exercised or suffered encroachment
  • The buildings, outbuildings and structures on the lot

The plan

The plan lets the buyer(s) see exactly what they are acquiring. It gives a bird’s-eye view of the property that shows these aspects:

  • The main building (its location, size and exterior cladding materials)
  • Any garages, sheds or other storage spaces (their location, size and exterior cladding materials)
  • The well, septic tank and leach field, if any
  • The swimming pool, garden, concrete slab or any other element present
  • The trees, cedar hedges and fences, if any
  • The exact size of the lot, its cadastral number and property lines
  • The location of electrical wires and telecommunications cables
  • Easements, rights-of-way, encroachments, flood zones, at-risk areas, areas prone to landslides, riparian protection and municipal restrictions
Exemple of a certificate of localisation

If a change has been made to the property, to its lot number or to the laws or bylaws in the municipality in which it is located, there is a good chance that a new document will be needed. In any case, it is the notary in charge of the transaction who will decide if that is necessary.

“Standards of practice for surveyors and legislative requirements change,” explains Elena Maria Bejan, a notary at DuProprio. “So, it is best to check the validity of your certificate of localisation with the notary handling the transaction as soon as possible, to avoid unpleasant surprises or delays in officializing the sale.”

3 steps to follow to know if the certificate of localisation is still valid

1. Current state of the premises

For a certificate of localisation to accurately demonstrate the current state of the premises, no changes can have been made to the property since the document was produced. For example: the size of the building, the pool, the shed, the exterior cladding, the windows, the balconies and even the fences must not have been changed, moved or removed. Everything must be identical to the certificate of localisation you have in hand.

2. Lot number

Moreover, the lot number indicated on the certificate of localisation must not have changed. Starting in the late 90s, the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, which is in charge of the Registre foncier du Québec, began a cadastral reform.

All properties in Quebec were reassessed and have been or will be given a new lot number in the millions (e.g. 1 234 567). From now on, each property in Quebec will have a unique number, to make it easier to locate.

Therefore, if a certificate of localisation bears an old lot number and the cadastral reform was carried out in the municipality after the certificate was issued, the document is no longer valid and needs an updated description.

3. Laws and bylaws

When surveyors produce a certificate of localisation, they check the applicable laws (relating to the Régie du Logement, cultural heritage, and the protection of the territory and agricultural activities) and municipal bylaws (on zoning and environmental protection). These may have changed since the certificate was produced. It is therefore important to have an up-to-date document.

Beige house in the snow

What is the validity period of certificates of localisation?

The Chambre des notaires du Québec encourages its members to request that the certificate be less than 10 years old at the time of the real estate transaction, even if no changes were made to the property. The lending institution may also require a more recent document in order to be certain of the property’s current state.

To find out how much an updated certificate of localisation could cost you, see the guide of suggested rates (French only) created by the provincial surveyors’ association—the Ordre des Arpenteurs-Géomètres du Québec (OAGQ). According to this guide, the cost of obtaining a certificate for a single-family home located in an urban area is about $1,500.1 You will usually have the document in hand in 4 to 6 weeks, says the OAGQ.

Conditions for a certificate of localisation to be valid

If the selling party does not have an up-to-date certificate of localisation when they put the property on the market, they can offer to replace it with title insurance. The buying party will thus be covered if a problem related to ownership rights arises.

The decision of whether or not to take out title insurance is made by the notary overseeing the transaction, according to the specifics of the real estate transaction to officialise. In any case, title insurance is a final recourse. It is the exception, not the rule.

For example, if the municipality requires that a shed be moved, the cost will be covered by the title insurance. However, issues involving property lines and non-compliance with environmental protection laws, among other things, are not covered.

The best protection for both parties is a recent certificate of localisation that describes the current situation. It is important to keep it close at hand, as it will have to be submitted during the next real estate transaction involving the property in question.

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1. As of December 5, 2023.