By        July 6th, 2017


Where is my property line?

"Where is my property line?"  It's a question commonly asked by homeowners who, having paid little attention to the actual location of their property boundary, are faced with the decision of where to build a fence, shed, deck or pool. In some cases the question is motivated by a brewing property line dispute between neighbours.  Either way, knowing where your property line actually is and how to support your property rights is a crucial part of home ownership.

Isn't the fence the property line?Survey bar showing property line by fence

A recent study by Krcmar Surveyors Ltd showed that 99% of fences on residential properties in the Ontario are, in fact, not on the property line (Krcmar/Protect Your Boundaries Study White Paper).  While most people assume that the fence marks the property line, the truth of the matter is that most do not.  This usually comes about in one of two ways:  either a homeowner decided to build a fence inside their property line so that they can have full control over style, maintenance etc., or that homeowner decides to approximate where the boundary is and makes a mistake.  

Is it illegal to build a fence off the property line?

It's not illegal to build a fence off the property line, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to build a fence on your property. However, it can certainly cause headaches for future buyers and sellers of your house and neighbouring properties when, once you're no longer there to explain the situation, potential buyers and sellers assume that the fence is on the property line and make representations and decisions based on that assumpton.

So how do I know where my property line is?

Only land surveyors have the legal authority to locate and mark a property line.  This information is also on the land survey plans that they create to document their findings. If you have a land survey plan of your property it will tell you the dimensions of your property.  If the survey plan is a Surveyors Real Property Report (a type of survey plan) it will likely show your house on it and give you measurments from the corners of the building to the property line.  You can approximate the location of the property line by measuring out these distances.  Be warned, though:  this is a very rough estimate and this method is to give you a rough idea only.  

Existing Surveys, New Surveys and Boundary Stakeouts

In order to get an official opinion on the location of your property line you will need to consult a professional land surveyor.  Depending on what you are trying to achieve, there are generally three options available to you:

Existing Survey Plans

Existing survey plans are survey plans of your property that were performed at somepoint in the past.  Boundaries generally don't change, and niether does the location of most residential buildings. As such an older survey plan can be of enormous value to a homeowner in determining where the property line is.  It's also useful, if more recent, when applying to the city for a building permit.  If it's comprehensive enough, and still representative of the property and it's features, then your municipality will likely accept it as part of the permit application.  Protect Your Boundaries has the largest database of existing survey plans available at www.ProtectYourBoundaries.ca.

Boundary Stakeouts

If you are putting up a fence, new landscaping, or building some other structure that does not require a building permit, and you simply want the property line marked on the ground, then a Boundary Stakeout is a good bet.  A land survey firm will send a crew out to place markers along the property line, marking for you the official property line.  This option is also valuable when two neighbours disagree on the location of the property line that delineates their properties, and they both want an official opinion on its actual location.  Boundary stakeouts cost upwards of $800 in the Greater Toronto Area.

New Survey

If you are in a boundary dispute, or you are intending on building a major structure that requires a building permit, then you will require a new survey.  Contact a land surveyor to have a new survey performed.  New surveys cost upwards of $1900 in the Greater Toronto Area.  

 

Finding out where your property line is involves more than just assuming that it's where the fence is.  The answer to the question, "where is my property line?" starts with a survey plan, and the services offered by your local land survey firm.