Top 5 boundary Q&As
The first step to protecting your boundaries is to become informed about your rights as a private property owner. You have the right to exclusive use of your property, the right to legal protection against others intruding on your property, and the right to sell, transfer, exchange and mortgage property.
Land surveying – the art and science of mapping and measuring land, and calculating the precise locations and boundaries of divided plots of land – makes our system of private property ownership possible. Protect Your Boundaries was created to provide homeowners with the tools and information they need to safeguard their property assets. To that end, this blog post will provide answers to the top five boundary questions.
1. Where is my property boundary?
Only a survey plan prepared by a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor can show you exactly where your property boundaries are located. To understand your survey plan and learn how to apply it to your property, please see How to Read a Survey Plan. You can also arrange to have a survey crew come to your house to stake out your property line.
2. Where does the fence go?
Ideally, a new fence being built between two properties should be located precisely along the boundary line, enabling each neighbour to own half of the fence and share the maintenance and replacement costs equally.
If you wish to be the sole owner of the new fence, ensure that it is located completely on your side of the property boundary—but recognize that if your property (or your neighbour’s property) is sold, the new owner(s) may incorrectly assume that the fence is on the property line, which could lead to potential problems if not disclosed. Learn more about fences.
3. Buying a house—Do I need to get a survey plan if I have title insurance?
We recommend that homebuyers review the property survey plan before closing the deal. A survey plan provides solid, unequivocal information about the property in question: Will you have good and marketable title in the future? Will the land be suitable for your intended use? Are there any pitfalls or potential problems associated with the property or the boundaries?
Title insurance is cost-effective protection against owning a parcel of land with defective title and is used to close real estate transactions. As a regulated financial product, title insurance promises to compensate you if you discover a problem with your title after purchasing the property. However, title insurance does not reveal potential problems or address existing title deficiencies.
If you are buying a home and have an existing survey plan, be sure to carefully review it with your lawyer and realtor for potential boundary issues or problems. If you suspect there are any problems, consider consulting a licensed land surveyor. You can book an appointment through PYB’s Talk to a Surveyor service to discuss anything that is shown on the plan with a professional Ontario Land Surveyor. If a problem is revealed, consider renegotiating terms with the seller. Another option may be to ask the seller to make a request of their title insurance provider to remedy the problems. Learn more:
- Land survey trumps all documents in a house purchase (Bob Aaron, Toronto Star, Dec. 21, 2013)
- Title insurance really isn’t optional (Bob Aaron, Toronto Star, Dec. 8, 2012)
4. What can I do about my neighbour's garden, shed or other encroachment on my property?
In today’s crowded urban landscape, people often dig flowerbeds, widen driveways, and place sheds with little regard for the precise location of their property boundaries. Regardless of their intent, it is important for you to politely inform your neighbours of these encroachments and request that they adhere to the boundaries.
Before you have that talk, it’s important to first confirm your boundary locations by obtaining an existing survey plan or commissioning an up-to-date survey. Having a recent plan from a licensed land surveyor can help to avoid confusion or arguments about the official lines.
If your neighbour disagrees with the survey plan and refuses to remedy the encroachment, avoid further confrontation and seek legal advice. A simple letter from your lawyer can often work wonders. It’s best to deal with these issues quickly in order to avoid bigger problems later, such as when you want to sell your home. Learn more about handling disputes.
5. Who owns the tree?
Trees that are located on your property belong to you, unless it is located on or near the property boundary, in which case its ownership becomes more complex.
Trees with a portion of the trunk straddling the boundary line are considered co-owned, belonging to both property owners. If one co-owner wants to remove the tree, the property rights of the other co-owner must be respected. Disputes arise when it is not clear if the tree is straddling the boundary line. A significant ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2013 determined that any portion of the tree trunk including the part where it flares into branches and roots must be considered. If you and the adjacent residents are uncertain, you will need a land surveyor to precisely locate and stake your property boundary to prove sole ownership of the tree. You may need a plan showing the location of the tree if you apply to the city to remove it.
Do you have a property boundary question? Send your questions to us at email@example.com or through a comment on our blog.