Rude Neighbour? Getting Justice Over a Property Line Fiasco

Rude, unneighbourly hijinx got a Canadian man in legal hot water. It could happen to you when property line disputes get out of control. Take it as a warning when you buy or sell Ontario real estate.

Merry Christmas It Wasn’t

A neighbour we’ll call ‘Pedro’ was  ‘Jacques’ and ‘Marie’s’ worst nightmare ever. Their legal conundrum started with a concrete retaining wall. It ended with Pedro cackling like a Bad Santa to “have a merry, merry Christmas” as he jackhammered his reputation into concrete dust. In between, he managed to belch, fart and vilify his way into a superior court record.

No Bad Neighbours, Says Judge

“People need to be discouraged from similar ‘bad neighbour’ type behaviour,” the court decision read. How did a neighbourly dispute get this far? Like so many, it was the old “your-fence-is-on-my-property-line” spat.  

Watch Where You Put Your Fence

When Jacques and Marie poured a concrete retaining wall to shore up a sports court in their backyard, little did they know the migraines it would case. Their plans were well intentioned but the concrete spread further than expected. It inched 19 cm across a property line they shared with Pedro.

Pet Peeve Goes Way Too Far

At first, Pedro seemed okay with the incursion. It was a long ways from his home, located on a one-third acre lot, and no big deal. That changed in 2014, when he dumped 10 kilos of dog feces on their side of the fence, arguing the strip belonged to him (it didn’t). The shocked couple called animal control. Pedro retailiated by complaining to the municipality about an overheight addition to the retaining wall. Soon, signs commanding the couple to “Stay Out!” went up on his side. 

Conflict Escalates as Christmas Nears

With Christmas 2015 fast approaching, Pedro donned orange coveralls and a hard hat and took a jackhammer to the offending wall. Jacques and Marie called police, but even they retreated from the excessive noise. The couple claimed in court he laughed like Santa as he stood astride the damaged wall. Six years and a court hearing later, the $16,801 in damages they won won’t begin to heal their psychic wounds, the couple says. 

Survey Your Property for Legal Certainty

Getting a property survey can protect you from neighbourly nightmares. A detailed property drawing by an Ontario land surveyor shows exactly where your land starts and ends. It sites buildings, fences, driveways and roads in relation to neighbouring properties. Easements or rights-of-way that prevent development are included so you never have to worry about being asked to tear up improvements you make.

Property Survey Can Help You Sell Home

Real estate buyers can be very picky about getting lot dimensions right. Who wouldn’t, with so much riding on what may be the biggest investment of their life? Having the lot size correct in the agreement of purchase and sale can make the difference between closing the deal quickly and hold ups that cost you money, now or later. If a buyer discovers they didn’t get what they paid for, they may pursue you into court.

Micro Mistakes, Big Problems

Even the tiniest mistake can cause grief. Municipalities, for instance, have set back requirements for minimum distances between structures and property lines you must meet before building a home or add-on. With a property survey, you know exactly where your boundaries are, before you start to dig. 

Utilities Can Force You to Move a Building

Utility companies frequently place easements on properties to ensure they have the space needed to run power lines and the like. Unless you know about these easements, you could put a garage in a place where it’s not allowed. Many homegrown projects constructed without building permits have been torn down when they encroached on a utility right of way.

Fuzzy Zoning, Fuzzy Thinking

Think about the history of your home. Is it a country cottage or proud heritage home? If your property was built in the early days of your municipality, it may not be 100% on your lot. Before modern zoning regulations, families who built their own home often strayed just inches or feet away from the property line. You probably don’t want to go to court with your next door neighbour over an oversight that occurred long before you bought your home.

Bank Requirements for Mortgage Loans

Many mortgage lenders require that you provide a property survey when you apply to finance a home you plan to buy or build. Surveys up to 20 years old are usually acceptable, as long as the owner hasn’t made major changes to the structure or added something like a granny flat that strays across a property line. Your title insurance can also hinge on having a property survey. If you are missing a property survey or the one you receive is way out of date, hire a surveyor to help you figure out your legal rights.

Getting the Seller to Pay

You can amend a real estate agreement of purchase or sale to include reasonable conditions that put the burden back on the seller. Be sure yours includes that the seller will provide you with a property survey or pay to have one completed. They probably won’t risk losing a real estate sale by refusing you. Property surveys can cost up to several thousand dollars if the lot has many buildings and improvements or just a few hundred for raw land. No need for you to pay for this expense when you can talk the seller into it. 

Legal Advice for Land Disputes

Before your neighbour meets you in court, ask an Axess Law Ontario real estate lawyer about your property line rights. Our licensed lawyers can video conference with you anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week. Make an appointment by dialing toll-free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. Lawyers can meet with  you in person at our Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Ottawa, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. 

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s real estate law services.