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Neighbour disputes can be difficult to navigate. When you are having trouble with a neighbour and want to know your options, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer who is licensed to practise in the province where you live.

The following information is not legal advice and does not take the place of speaking with a lawyer.

We all have neighbours, and these days we live closer to our neighbours than ever before. Whether you are living in a condo, an apartment or a house, chances are you are close enough to your neighbours that some of the things they do bother you… and vice versa.

We have some laws and by-laws that help to regulate how we live on our property, but for the most part we don’t tell people what they can and can’t do when they are at home. The range of what is considered “acceptable” behaviour is very broad (even if we don’t always agree!) and ultimately, we need to get along with the people living around us.

HOW TO REPORT AN ISSUE

Now occasionally it won’t be possible to get along with our neighbours, and in these cases it is important to know what our options are. If you are living in a house and a neighbour is breaking a by-law, you can call 3-1-1. This is the number to contact city officials to alert them that there is a by-law being broken. Generally they will send someone to investigate, though not necessarily immediately. Calling 9-1-1 should be reserved for emergencies and dangerous situations.

CONDOS

If you are living in a condo, it is the condo board that will enforce most rules. Condos operate almost like small cities with the condo board having the ability to make rules for those living in the building. They may include noise restrictions, smoking restrictions, and even things like, “no bicycles in the elevators.” If someone is breaking a rule, you have recourse to the condo board — which has the authority to enforce the condo’s rules.

SHORT-TERM RENTALS

One issue that neighbours have been trying to grapple with recently is the increased use of short-term rentals. Now, it is common for homeowners to rent out their houses or condos, and some people even buy properties specifically for this purpose. The difficulty is that short-term renters often don’t have the same interest in preserving the relationships with their neighbours that long-term residents do. You might not want to upset your neighbours by having loud parties every weekend, but a short-term renter who is in town for two nights might not care.

The result is that cities all over the world are trying to find a way to regulate the short-term rental industry. In Toronto, the rules that would have come into effect recently are currently tied up in litigation so we don’t yet know what their effect will be. In cities around the world, we have seen requirements to register properties, to sign codes of conduct, and to agree to fines if rules are consistently broken.

In condo buildings, it is a bit easier to regulate short-term rentals; we have seen a number of condo boards ban them altogether. For this reason, it is always important to be aware of condo rules before buying into the building if short-term rentals are something you are considering. Regardless of the type of property, it seems that the short-term rental industry is here to stay. Cities will have to find a way of balancing the needs of renters with the needs of neighbours to ensure that everyone can get along.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW?

No matter where you are living, it is important to remember that neighbours are people you may have to live close to for years and years to come. If you can resolve issues peacefully, you may be better off in the long run than if you start down the road of reporting bad behaviour to city officials or a condo board. Neighbour disputes have a tendency to escalate quickly, and you are often better off by avoiding conflict in the first place.

Remember that we can’t prevent neighbours from being annoying — there is no law about this! The range of what neighbourly behaviours are considered appropriate is pretty forgiving, and we need to do our best to get along.