A citizen plans to acquire a two-storey commercial building and to convert it into a residential duplex: she would rent the ground floor and live on the top floor. Before purchasing, she inquired with Arrondissement de Montréal-Nord about the feasibility of this project. The borough would have reassured her that this change in use was possible.

The citizen submits that, since her acquisition of the building, the borough’s information and requirements have changed many times and she was finally told that the planned modification would not be authorized, considering the applicable By-laws.

The citizen withdrew her Request for change of use and the borough refunded the $1,000 fee she had paid in this regard. She then addressed the matter to the Ombudsman.

Our investigation cannot confirm that the borough’s employees had given the citizen assurance that the desired conversion would be authorized. Rather, our discussions with the plaintiff and our verifications with the borough indicate that she would have been informed that the conversion had to be authorized by the Borough Council, that she had to submit a Request to that effect and that there were no guarantees of approval.

In light of this information and of the fact that the cost of reviewing her file were refunded to her, we could not conclude that she had been prejudiced.

Our investigation revealed, however, that the current By-laws allowed this citizen to live on the top floor of the building: we discussed with the borough, which following an inspection, issued a Transformation/Renovation permit and officially recognized the second storey dwelling. Thus, the citizen was able to move to the second floor, as she had hoped.

Following our intervention, the borough also recognized acquired rights allowing this citizen to keep a section of the building that the borough had previously asked her to demolish.

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