dimanche 5 octobre 2014

Dimanches rétro: la nécessité de donner un préavis raisonnable pour mettre fin à un contrat à durée indéterminée

par Karim Renno
Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l.

La règle en droit civil veut que  - à moins de règle expresse à l'effet contraire comme l'article 2125 C.c.Q. par exemple - l'on ne puisse mettre fin à un contrat à durée indéterminée sans donner un avis raisonnable à la partie co-contractante. Cette règle ne date d'ailleurs pas d'hier puisque la Cour suprême en faisait état en 1877 dans Johnstone v. The Minister & Trustees of St. Andrews Church, Montreal (1 SCR 235).

Dans cette affaire, l'Appelant se pourvoit contre un jugement d'appel qui a rejeté son recours en dommages contre l'Intimé en raison de la prétendue résiliation intempestive du bail intervenu entre les parties.
En effet, l'Appelant fait valoir que ce bail étant à durée indéterminée, l'Intimé ne pouvait y mettre fin unilatéralement et sans préavis alors qu'il offrait toujours de payer le loyer.
C'est dans ce contexte que la Cour donne raison à l'Appelant et souligne effectivement que l'on ne peut mettre fin à un contrat à durée indéterminée sans donner un préavis raisonnable:
We have now to consider the nature of the holding of the pews for over forty-nine years up to 1872. The trustees let the pews originally for a year, and for rent in advance, and the pewholders, whether the rent was paid or not in advance, were allowed to become lessees for a second year by tacite reconduction, and so on from year to year. Art. 1609 provides: " If the lessee remain " in possession more than eight days after the expiration " of the lease without any opposition or notice on the " part of the lesser, a tacit renewal of the lease takes " place for another year, or for the term for which such " lease was made, if less than a year, and the lessee can " not thereafter leave the premises or be ejected therefrom unless notice has been given within the delay " required by law." This article clearly applies to all holders of a pew for over a year. The Appellant was a lessee of No. 68 for two years ('68-'69), and during the latter year was clearly entitled to notice. He resumed possession of it in 1872, having occupied No. 66 in 1871 at the same rateas he previously paid, without any new bargain or arrangement, so lar as appears What then was under all the circumstances, the nature of the holding under the contract? Would it not be a fair inference that he resumed his former position as to No. 68, and which was the same as that of all other pewholders who held for over a year? And was it not the true understanding of the parties that his occupation should be identical with all the other pewholders? Did not the Respondents virtually say: " The rule and practice is to let pews, for rent payable annually in advance, and you shall have the same tenure as all the others, which is a holding as long as you pay the rent in proper time; and we having now adjudged you as a fit person to hold a pew, you can, by paying the rent in advance, continue to hold the pew until we give you notice to quit, or you are declared by the proper authorities not person to do so?" I feel satisfied that, had such been submitted for the consideration of a jury in an English Court, and they found that such was the implied contract the verdict would he sustained, and 1 have found no law or rule which would prevent a Judge in Lower Canada finding the same under the Code of Civil Procedure. In that case the Appellant would be entitled to a legal notice to quit. It is not, however, necessary, in my opinion, to decide positively that point; although, did the determination of the lease depend solely on it, I would not have any hesitation to do so. 
That in all cases of verbal leases, and where the term is uncertain, a notice is necessary, appears to me unquestionable. By Article 1657 " When the term of a lease is " uncertain, or the lease is verbal, or presumed, as provided "in Article 1608, neither of the parties can terminate it " without giving notice to the other, with a delay of three '' months, if the rent be payable at terms of three or more " months; if the rent be payable at terms of less than " three months, the delay is to be regulated according to " Article 1642." When the term of the lease was uncertain. 
This is clearly applicable to a written lease where the term is not stated and under which a party may hold by the year, quarter, month or otherwise. It is also applicable to verbal leases, where the term is not originally agreed upon, for the word "lease" applies to both; and nothing further was necessary to be provided for by the Code, unless a distinction were intended to be made otherwise between written and verbal leases. The Code evidently was intended to go further, and adds, " or the lease is verbal," a comprehensive term embracing all verbal leases, and so plainly mandatory that I feel bound to the considera tion that, for good reasons (one of which may have been, not to leave so important a right as the ending of a lease to be resolved by verbal proof, subject, as it would be, to conflicting evidence), the framers of the Code used the words advisedly, and that they, in the employment of words so plain, and the Legislature, in adopting them, intended them to apply to all cases of verbal leases, and to those where the term is uncertain. Such being my opinion, I am necessarily bound to declare that, as no legal notice was given to the Appellant, as required by the Code in the case of verbal leases, and, where the term is uncertain, as I maintain it was in this case, the Respondents were not justified in the trespasses and grievances committed by them, and that the appeal should be allowed, with costs, and that the Respondents should be adjudged to pay to the Appellant the sum of 3300 damages for the injuries complained of.
Le droit ne change pas si vite comme on peut le voir...

Référence : [2014] ABD Retro 40

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