Canada: Sous Traitant : Prouver La Réception De L'avis De Dénonciation

L'importance d'une dénonciation conforme à la loi avait déjà fait l'objet de notre chronique du 1er mai 2015, qui commentait la décision Équipements d'excavation Quatre-Saisons inc. c. 6642641 Canada inc. Dans cette cause, la Cour avait réitéré le principe voulant que la nature exacte des travaux doit être dénoncée dans le texte de l'avis, et ce, avant de les entreprendre.

Par la présente chronique, nous soulignons l'importance de démontrer que l'avis en question a bien été reçu par le propriétaire de l'immeuble, tel que le démontre la décision G.L.P. Paysagiste inc. c. Thibodeau, 2015 QCCQ 6970.

Les faits

Le 17 novembre 2011, Magalie Thibodeau et Sylvain Gagnon (ci?après les « Propriétaires ») et l'entrepreneur général Gemco Construction inc. (ci-après « Gemco ») signent un contrat d'entreprise de construction pour la construction d'une maison neuve. Le devis de construction prévoit entre autres l'installation d'une fosse septique, d'un champ d'épuration et de ponceaux.

Le 1er juin 2012, Gemco signe un contrat de sous-traitance relativement aux travaux précédemment mentionnés avec G.L.P. Paysagiste inc. (ci-après « G.L.P. »). Suivant une conversation téléphonique avec la propriétaire Thibodeau, un représentant de G.L.P. lui envoie un courriel comportant en pièce jointe l'avis de dénonciation. Les travaux de sous-traitance seront exécutés sur l'immeuble entre le 17 juin et le 6 août 2012.

Impayée par Gemco, G.L.P. publie une hypothèque légale de la construction le 24 octobre 2012. Le 2 novembre 2012, G.L.P. signifie aux Propriétaires l'acte d'hypothèque. G.L.P. signifie par la suite une procédure pour réclamer les montants impayés.

Les Propriétaires contestent le bien-fondé de la réclamation de G.L.P., stipulant qu'il y a absence de dénonciation par le sous-traitant préalablement à l'exécution des travaux.

Le droit

La Cour rappelle le principe de l'article 2728 C.c.Q. en vertu duquel la dénonciation doit constituer un avis formel et doit faire mention de l'existence d'un contrat liant le sous-entrepreneur à l'entrepreneur général et de l'intention du sous-entrepreneur d'invoquer son privilège, afin « de permettre au propriétaire d'éviter de voir son bien grevé d'une sûreté en faveur d'un tiers avec lequel il n'a aucun lien contractuel et de mettre de côté les sommes qu'il devrait normalement payer à l'entrepreneur principal pour les travaux effectués par le sous?entrepreneur et ainsi le désintéresser ».

La dénonciation est une démarche positive qui requiert davantage qu'un simple avis donné par le sous-entrepreneur au propriétaire lors d'une discussion à l'effet qu'un contrat a été conclu avec l'entrepreneur général. Il revient également au sous-entrepreneur de prouver qu'il a dénoncé son contrat au propriétaire avant le début des travaux pour lesquels il réclame une somme impayée.

Dans le présent cas, il fallait déterminer si la dénonciation faite par courriel répondait aux exigences législatives. Le Code civil du Québec n'impose pas l'utilisation d'un mode exclusif de transmission pour l'envoi de la dénonciation, la seule condition étant que ladite dénonciation soit donnée par écrit. Un courriel remplit donc cette condition. Par ailleurs, l'article 31 de la Loi concernant le cadre juridique des technologies de l'information (ci-après « LCCJTI ») crée une présomption de réception du courriel à l'égard d'une adresse de courriel publique ou commerciale. Cette présomption peut toutefois être renversée par preuve contraire. Lorsque l'envoi d'un courriel n'est pas suivi d'une réponse de la part du destinataire, une vérification s'impose de la part de l'expéditeur. Ce dernier a l'obligation de s'assurer que le destinataire a bien reçu sa communication.

Dans cette affaire, la preuve démontrait que, lors de la conversation téléphonique du 5 juin 2012, le représentant de G.L.P. avait expliqué le contenu du contrat à la propriétaire Thibodeau et c'est à l'occasion de cette même discussion qu'il avait obtenu l'adresse courriel de celle-ci afin de lui envoyer la dénonciation du contrat. La propriétaire Thibodeau soutient n'avoir pris connaissance du courriel qu'après avoir reçu signification des procédures et effectué des démarches auprès du notaire de Gemco et du représentant de G.L.P. Le courriel s'était retrouvé automatiquement dans la corbeille de son ordinateur qui était programmé de manière à ce que tout courriel non authentifié ou inconnu soit considéré comme un courriel indésirable et soit classé dans la corbeille.

Conclusion

Aucune preuve n'établissait que G.L.P. ait fait quelque démarche pour s'assurer que la propriétaire Thibodeau avait pris connaissance du courriel expédié avant l'exécution des travaux. La dénonciation jointe au courriel faisait mention de l'existence du contrat intervenu entre G.L.P. et Gemco ainsi que son prix mais n'indiquait pas l'intention de G.L.P. d'exercer un recours hypothécaire contre l'immeuble des Propriétaires en cas de défaut de paiement par l'entrepreneur général. L'heure, la minute et la seconde de l'envoi du message ne figuraient pas non plus sur le courriel. Il n'y avait aucune preuve à l'effet que la propriétaire Thibodeau n'ait pas reçu la dénonciation, mais il n'y a pas non plus de preuve en ce qui a trait à l'accusé de réception pour confirmer l'envoi du courriel par G.L.P.

L'explication plausible et valable donnée par la propriétaire Thibodeau quant à la réception du courriel de G.L.P. amène donc le tribunal à conclure qu'elle n'était pas de mauvaise foi et qu'elle n'avait pas sciemment évité de recevoir la dénonciation. La présomption de réception du courriel et de la pièce jointe avant l'exécution des travaux s'avérait ainsi renversée.

Par conséquent, le tribunal a conclu que G.L.P., qui devait démontrer selon les prescriptions de la loi que les Propriétaires avaient reçu, avant l'exécution des travaux sur leur immeuble, la dénonciation écrite du contrat de sous-traitance entre G.L.P. et Gemco, ne rencontrait pas les conditions fixées pour faire valoir une dénonciation légale. La Cour a ainsi rejeté la requête introductive d'instance de G.L.P.

Cet article est paru dans l'édition du jeudi 14 janvier 2016 du journal Constructo

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