Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
While this proverb may be true, fences can also be a real source of conflict between neighbours. Who is going to pay for the fence? Who is going to build it? What will it look like? These are all issues that can sometimes lead to real dissension. The Line Fences Act, one of the oldest laws in Ontario, provides a procedure to resolve these disputes.
Can I put up a dividing fence between my property and my neighbour’s?
The Line Fences Act allows a land owner to construct and maintain a fence to mark the boundary between his property and the adjoining lands.
Can I get my neighbour to pay for part of the fence?
If the fence is to be built on the property line and you approach the neighbour before construction begins then the neighbour will probably be required to pay for part of the cost.
What if the neighbour does not want to pay or disagrees with the type of fence I want to build?
One solution is to build the fence just inside the boundary line. The other solution is to approach the municipality to help resolve the dispute. Many municipalities, including Toronto, have established an arbitration process under the Line Fences Act to assist in these situations.
How does the arbitration process work?
The municipality appoints third parties to act as impartial fence-viewers. The fence-viewers visit the property and discuss the issues with each of the property owners. The fence-viewers will then make a decision, which will be sent to the property owners. The decision may include the location of the fence, who will pay for the work and when the work will begin and end.
Will the fence-viewers decide where the boundary line is?
No. The Line Fence Act does not deal with disputes concerning the location of the boundary line. If that is the issue, you must seek the advice of a lawyer and/or surveyor.
Can the arbitration process be used for an existing fence that requires repairs or reconstruction?
Yes. The same process is available if the issue is either repairs to or reconstruction of an existing fence.
Is there a cost to the arbitration process?
Yes and it can be expensive. The city of Toronto charges an initial fee of $1,100. Obviously it will be cheaper if you and your neighbour can come to an agreement on your own.
Where can I get more information?
For more information about Line Fences visit the city of Toronto’s website, www.toronto.ca/fence You can also download A Guide to the Line Fences Act, 2006 from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s website, www.mah.gov.on.ca (Go to Frequently Asked Questions – Line Fences.)