Normally property line disputes cause ill feelings between neighbours, but a local dispute has resulted in an outcry from an entire neighbourhood.
Trouble has been brewing around Collins Lane in Millbrook for a few years now. A pedestrian path connecting Centre Street to King Street, it was originally part of the property on its western boundary owned by the Collins. Over the years, owners allowed residents to use the route, and in years gone by, even cars were allowed to travel the laneway. Given the constant public use of the land, many years ago an agreement was made to divide the laneway, allocating a portion of it to the property to the west with the remaining portion becoming township property.
A few years ago new owners moved in and blocked off the laneway to the dismay of local residents. It was quickly re-opened but a few months ago a new fence was installed the length of the route. Neighbours complained that it encroached in the pedestrian pathway owned by the township. They were right.
Only Ontario Land Surveyors have the legal power to establish property lines, and they have done so on this property, marking its boundaries with their traditional red wooden stakes. They indicate that the fence extends beyond the property line. The owners have been asked to move it.
Apparently many landowners build fences along what they think is their property line, only to find they have annoyed their neighbours and incurred unnecessary expenses when the fence must be removed. Even more problematic is the discovery that buildings are encroaching on neighbouring land, which is fairly common in historical districts. In these circumstances, there are tools such as encroachment agreements and land purchases that allow the buildings to remain in place.
According to Ontario regulations, a property owner can build a fence anywhere on their side of the dividing line between two properties (also called the property line). If a property owner wants to put a fence right along the property line, they can do so only if the owner of the adjacent property agrees. A fence right on the boundary line allows neighbours to share the expense and maintenance costs, but they must agree on the type of fence. Owners who want to complete control their fence must place it inside their property line.
New builds usually come with clear boundaries making it is easy to locate new fences.
There is no building permit required in Cavan Monaghan to build a fence, nor is there a governing by-law. Director of Public Works Wayne Hancock cautions residents to check zoning and setbacks, coverage and height restrictions before building anything.
Sometimes surveys are made available to the buyer when purchasing a property. If you don’t have a survey, the website www.protectyourboundaries.ca allows landowners to investigate existing documents about their property. By entering your address, the site identifies easements, existing surveys and other reports that are available to purchase. Part of the sales pitch is the assertion that almost half of all residential properties in Ontario have hidden boundary issues, and that 99% of fences in the GTA are not on the property line.
Boundary issues usually arise when a neighbor tears down or installs a fence, chops down a tree or cuts your hedge. They are surprisingly emotional issues but are usually resolved through reasonable conversations between the parties. They become more problematic when attempting to sell a property, as an ongoing dispute can impact your property value and must be disclosed to potential purchases.
It should go without saying that the first step in building a fence is to put it where it belongs: on or inside your property line. KG