Canada: Ce Que Je Construis Est-Ce Un Immeuble Ou Un Meuble?

Ce que je construis est-il un immeuble ou un meuble?

Le principe est bien connu dans l'industrie de la construction : celui qui participe à la construction ou à la rénovation d'un immeuble a droit à l'hypothèque légale pour garantir la plus-value donnée à cet immeuble. La problématique vécue dans certains cas découle du caractère meuble ou immeuble de la chose construite ou installée. Si le bien est meuble, l'entrepreneur ne peut le grever d'une hypothèque légale pour garantir sa créance. Il doit alors prévoir des mécanismes alternatifs pour ce faire, telles que des avances lui soient versées au fur et à mesure de l'exécution des travaux.

La question de qualification meuble ou immeuble a fait couler beaucoup d'encre et mené à bien des débats, dont l'un a récemment été décidé par le tribunal, dans l'affaire Placements SCP inc. (séquestre de) c. Lemieux Nolet inc.[1].

Résumé des faits

Placements SCP (SCP) veut faire construire une usine de préparation de bitume pour alimenter ses entreprises. Elle octroi ainsi un contrat à l'entrepreneur général GPC Excavation (GPC) pour ce projet. En parallèle, la Banque de développement du Canada (BDC) finance SCP pour l'acquisition des terrains et la construction de l'usine et détient une hypothèque immobilière de premier rang sur ceux-ci.nothing En raison de problèmes financiers de SCP, les travaux de construction de l'usine sont suspendus en mars 2014 et un séquestre est nommé afin de vendre la totalité des biens de SCP au bénéfice des créanciers.

Plusieurs créanciers prétendent avoir des droits hypothécaires sur les composantes de l'usine, dans l'espoir de se faire payer de préférence aux autres. D'une part, l'entrepreneur GPC prétend que son hypothèque légale grève les composantes de l'usine à titre d'immeuble. D'autre part, BDC prétend que son hypothèque immobilière grève aussi ces composantes, alors que d'un autre côté, la Banque Royale du Canada (RBC) prétend que ces composantes sont des biens meubles et grevées de l'hypothèque mobilière octroyée à son bénéfice.

La décision

En vertu de la loi, un bien est meuble à moins qu'il soit immobilisé selon l'une des trois méthodes suivantes : par adhérence au sol, par intégration à un immeuble (tels les tuyaux et matériaux de construction) et par attache à un immeuble. La Cour devait ici déterminer si les composantes de l'usine étaient immeubles par adhérence ou par attache, l'intégration n'étant pas en cause ici.

L'immobilisation d'un bien par attache comporte une particularité favorisant la RBC : le bien grevé d'une hypothèque mobilière, qui était un meuble jusqu'à ce qu'il ne soit attaché à un immeuble, conserve tout de même sa nature mobilière aux fins de l'hypothèque. Les critères d'une immobilisation par attache sont les suivants : (1) la présence d'un immeuble; (2) une attache ou réunion matérielle d'un bien meuble à un immeuble; (3) la conservation de l'individualité du bien meuble et l'absence d'incorporation à l'immeuble; (4) le lien à demeure avec l'immeuble; et (5) une fonction du meuble assurant l'utilité de l'immeuble.

Par opposition, GPC et la BDC prétendent que les composantes sont immeubles puisqu'elles répondent aux trois critères d'adhérence : (1) la présence d'une construction ou d'un ouvrage; (2) l'adhérence au sol; et (3) le caractère permanent de la construction ou de l'ouvrage.

La Cour est venue à la conclusion que les composantes de l'usine étaient immeubles par adhérence. Ce sont donc les hypothèques immobilières qui s'appliquent. En vertu de la loi, GPC voit son hypothèque légale de la construction avoir automatiquement priorité sur celle de la RBC, ce qui lui a permis d'être payée par préférence à cette dernière.

Les composantes de l'usine de bitume sont une construction et un ouvrage en soi, ce qui permet de respecter le premier critère d'adhérence au sol. En effet, il s'agit d'un gros Suvre réalisé par intervention humaine.

De plus, les composantes ajoutées constituent une construction stable et unie au sol, qui y adhère et qui fait corps avec lui, ce qui remplit le deuxième critère d'adhérence. Elles sont installées sur une dalle de béton spécifiquement conçue et préparée pour elles. Elles pèsent plusieurs tonnes ce qui les fait adhérer au sol de par leur masse imposante. De plus, elles sont boulonnées à des ancrages fixes intégrés à la structure de béton.

Enfin, les composantes ont été construites de manière permanente en vertu d'un lien durable et indéfini au sol, ce qui remplit le troisième et dernier critère d'immobilisation par adhérence. Même s'il était en principe possible de démanteler l'usine pour la reconstruire ailleurs, cela ne signifie pas que la construction était temporaire. En effet, la volonté du propriétaire d'en faire une usine fixe pour un temps indéfini afin d'assurer la pérennité de ses activités, la complexité d'une telle l'opération de déménagement et la nécessité de refaire une nouvelle dalle de béton et de nouveaux ancrages font en sorte qu'il s'agit d'une construction à caractère permanent.

À titre d'exemple cités par le juge, les tribunaux ont qualifié d'immeubles par adhérence les biens suivants : une machine pour faire tourner des meules employées pour réduire des grains en farine, fixée sur une base de béton; un silo à grains, un moulin à scie et un four adjacent à une scierie; une tour de téléski nautique, reliée au sol à des blocs de bétons, permettant la pratique du ski nautique sur un plan d'eau par un système de câbles; un remonte pente dans un centre de ski qui est fixé sur des bases de béton; une maison démontable et transférable assemblée sur un solage avec raccordement aux services municipaux et aux services d'électricité; une maison mobile fixée solidement au sol à l'aide de piliers de béton plutôt que simplement déposée sur des blocs de béton.

Il faut ainsi demeurer vigilant quant aux propriétés physiques des travaux à réaliser et se renseigner sur les intentions du propriétaire d'en faire un usage temporaire ou permanent.

Footnote

[1] 2015 QCCS 6021, décision rendue le 17 décembre 2015.

Cet article est paru dans l'édition du mardi 10 mai 2016 du journal Constructo

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