On May 13, 2021, the Quebec Government tabled An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec ("Bill 96") in Quebec's National Assembly. The purpose of Bill 96 is to "affirm that the only official language of Québec is French." To bring this about, Bill 96 reinforces provisions relating to the use of French as the language of commerce and business in Quebec, and the drafting of certain documents, including contracts relating to immovable property.
Presently, the use of the English language is permitted in respect of contracts relating to immovable property which are submitted for registration at the Land Registry Office. However, should Bill 96 be given royal assent, then these contracts, if drafted in English, will require French language translation in order to be registered.
We have prepared the following summary of the proposed amendments to the Civil Code of Quebec ("C.C.Q.") and their impact on immovable transactions. This summary is based on the current draft of Bill 96 and discussions that we have had with representatives from the Land Registry Office.
1. Language of Registration - Must be in French
Under the current system, documents presented for registration (known as an application for registration) may be in either French or English. Therefore, for English language documents, the parties typically add the "language clause" at the end of the document, which stipulates that the parties have agreed that the document can be drafted in a language other than French (i.e. English). However, Bill 96 changes the current system. According to Section 125 of Bill 96, applications for registration filed at the Land Registry Office will be required to be drafted exclusively in French.
Examples of applications for registration include:
- Deeds of Sale;
- Deeds of Hypothec;
- Notices of Lease;
- Amendments; and,
- Radiations (i.e. cancellations) of a registered right.
2. Accompanying Documents - Must be in French
Under the current system, any documents accompanying an application for registration, if in a language other than French or English, must be accompanied by a French or English language translation. If Bill 96 is adopted as presently drafted, the Land Registry Office shall no longer accept applications for registration that are accompanied by English documents. Accordingly, all English accompanying documents will have to be translated and submitted to the Land Registry Office with a Quebec authenticated translation of the document in question.
Examples of accompanying documents include:
- Divorce or death certificates;
- Certified declarations of liquidation, succession or dissolution;
- Judgements; and
Both the original document and the authenticated translation will be registered and appear on title at the Land Registry Office.
3. Co-Ownership Documentation - Must be in French
Under the current system, declarations and amendments to acts of co-ownership, or the descriptions of the fractions thereof, can be drafted in French or English. If Bill 96 is adopted, then all declarations of co-ownership or any amendments to the act constituting the co-ownership or the description of the fractions must be drafted exclusively in French. Any other notices relating to co-ownership must also be drafted exclusively in French.
Any amendments or corrections of a registration that was registered exclusively in English, prior to the coming into force of Bill 96, may be done in English. For example, the parties are allowed to correct a document where the lot number was erroneously indicated or the name of a party was misspelled. Bill 96's proposed amendments which impact the ability to present documents for registration in English will thus only apply to future real estate documents, and will not apply to English language documents that have already been registered at the Land Registry Office.
5. Effective Date
The proposed amendments to the C.C.Q. will come into force three (3) months after the date of assent of Bill 96.
Public consultations in respect of Bill 96 are currently taking place. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.