dimanche 28 juin 2015

Dimanches rétro: la genèse des enseignements de la Cour d'appel sur la souplesse des critères dans le cadre d'une action en passation de titre

par Karim Renno
Renno Vathilakis Inc.

Il fut un temps pas si lointain où les recours en passation de titre répondaient à des conditions particulièrement rigides, dont la nécessité de consigner au complet le prix d'achat de l'immeuble pertinent. Cette réalité a bien changé, en grande partie en raison de la décision rendue par la Cour d'appel dans l'affaire Houlachi v. Bray (1997 CanLII 7108).


Dans cette affaire, la Cour d'appel est saisie du pourvoi des Appelants. Ceux-ci - Défendeurs en première instance - ont été condamné par la Cour supérieure à passer titre aux Intimés. 

En appel, les Appelants font valoir plusieurs arguments à l'encontre du jugement de première instance, dont le fait que le défaut des Intimés de déposer auprès de la Cour le prix d'achat est fatal à l'action en passation de titre.

L'Honorable juge Morris J. Fish - au nom d'une formation unanime - rejette l'argument des Appelants et le formalisme qu'ils prônent. Il souligne que les tribunaux doivent faire preuve de souplesse en la matière pour ne pas priver des acheteurs de bonne foi de leur droit à la passation de titre, tout en s'assurant que ceux-ci ont les fonds nécessaires pour conclure la transaction:
39 Statute and case law have evolved significantly in recent years and Thouin is in my view best understood as a significant judicial step in the ongoing development of an equitable procedural framework for the trial of actions in conveyance of title.  
40 A legislative contribution to this modern framework appears in article 1574 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which came into effect on January 1, 1994.  
41 Article 1574 C.C.Q. provides:
[…]
42 Moreover, the new Code is marked throughout by a legislative intention to subject social and economic intercourse to a requirement of good faith that is enforceable by law. For example, pursuant to article 7 C.C.Q., legal rights must be exercised in good faith; likewise, in virtue of article 1375 C.C.Q., all parties must conduct themselves in good faith not only when obligations are created, but also when they are performed or extinguished.

43 Apart from this emphasis on good faith in the substantive law, the Code of Civil Procedure has only in recent decades commanded the primacy of substance over form. Its provisions must now, pursuant to article 2, be applied so as “to render effective the substantive law and to ensure that it is carried out”. And they must be interpreted “in such a way as to facilitate rather than to delay or to end prematurely the normal advancement of cases”.  
[…] 
48 Earlier, in Provenzano, giving the reasons of the majority, Justice Baudouin reviewed the underlying principles in these terms:
Le demandeur, dans l'action en passation de titre, doit se soumettre à un certain nombre de conditions strictes. L'une d'elles est précisément d'offrir pour signature une proposition d'acte reflétant à la convention des parties. La raison en est que la vente est un contrat synallagmatique comportant des obligations réciproques à la charge de chacun des contractants. L'un d'eux ne peut donc forcer l'autre à exécuter les siennes sans offrir au moins de remplir celles qui lui incombent. C'est une explication particulière de l'exception d'inexécution (exceptio non adimpleti contractus). L'acheteur ne saurait donc exiger la signature du vendeur s'il n'offre pas une convention respectant l'entente des parties et s'il ne montre pas qu'il est prêt à exécuter sa part du marché en consignant le prix.  
On retrouve en jurisprudence de nombreuses illustrations de ce principe. Ainsi, un acheteur ne peut être contraint de signer un acte de vente qui contient des conditions qui ne sont pas dans l'entente originale.  
Par contre, notre droit des contrats est soumis à un autre grand principe qui est le respect de la parole donnée et l'exécution de bonne foi des engagements. Un contractant ne peut refuser de respecter ses obligations en invoquant un simple prétexte ou tenter de se soustraire aux conséquences d'un contrat valablement conclu par de simples arguties.  
Une recherche dans notre jurisprudence sur la question m'a révélé que les tribunaux se sont montrés souples et ont toujours refusé de privilégier l'exigence de la stricte conformité de l'acte proposé aux dépens de l'équité et de la bonne foi.
[The emphasis is mine.]

I turn now to consider how, in my respectful view, these underlying principles can be faithfully preserved without reliance on what our Court has repeatedly characterized as “obsolete and unwarranted formalism”.

VI
49 Purchasers entitled to acquire a property pursuant to a valid and binding offer must often borrow to pay for it. They generally depend for this purpose on loans secured by hypothec -- which can only be obtained once judgment has been rendered in their favour. Their right to that judgment is illusory if, as a condition of its exercise, they must tender payment the moment proceedings are filed.

50 As one writer has put it:
...It is almost inconceivable that the innocent prospective purchaser should be thwarted in its attempts to obtain the property by formalistic legal rules developed over one hundred years ago and that a recalcitrant vendor should be permitted to hide behind such formalities to avoid judicial sanction of the inexecution of his obligations.
That result is not dictated by any provision of the Civil Code of Quebec or the Code of Civil Procedure. Nor is it mandated by any principle of law or rule of equity.  
51 The governing principle on an action in conveyance of title is that courts must ensure performance by the parties to a binding offer of their respective and reciprocal obligations. This requires, on the part of the suing purchaser, an evident intent and demonstrable capacity to respect the conditions of the offer --and, in particular, the conditions agreed to for payment of the price.  
[…] 
62 In these circumstances, I would hold that the law did not subject respondents to the “obsolete formality” of paying for the property when the action was filed -- years before the corresponding obligation of appellants, the transfer of title to the property, could be compelled by court order.

63 While dispensing with this formality, however, I would take care to preserve by other means the substantive protection it was initially designed to secure.

64 As a plain matter of justice, purchasers in good faith should not be prevented by anachronistic rules from exercising their proper legal recourse against recalcitrant vendors who refuse without valid cause to proceed with the sale; nor should vendors in good faith be exposed to vexatious proceedings by purchasers who, when bound to do so, are unwilling or unable to sign a deed and pay for the property in accordance with the terms of the offer.

65 The trial judge was thus bound, in my respectful view, to make certain that title to the property did not pass from appellants to respondents as a result of his judgment until respondents had paid for it in accordance with the terms of the deed.

66 To this end, if the judge found that the tendered hypothecary commitment did not satisfy the requirements of article 1574 C.C.Q., one alternative was to require respondents to perfect it before rendering a judgment that granted them title.

67 Another was to dispose of the matter sequentially. First, upon finding that respondents were entitled to succeed on their action in conveyance of title, the trial judge could have rendered an interlocutory judgment: (1) recognizing the right of respondents to acquire ownership of the property against payment of the agreed price; (2) declaring the tendered deed valid and sufficient; and (3) ordering respondents to deposit the purchase price into Court within a fixed and reasonable delay. Later, upon proof of the required deposit, he could by final judgment have transferred title and made the appropriate ancillary orders.
Référence : [2015] ABD Rétro 26

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