Fence Damage, Construction and Maintenance: Who Pays?
A community thrives on its occupants coexisting, but even when neighbours get along with one another there will always be disagreements. When it comes to fences and your rights and responsibilities as a property owner there can be some confusion and it is important to know where you stand regarding the construction of new fences as well as repairs to old fences.
A New Fence
When constructing a new fence, it’s extremely important to consult your neighbour beforehand to establish if the costs will be shared and how upkeep and repairs will be settled. It becomes much easier to solve any later disputes if the original agreement is in writing as well, so it is recommended that both parties fill in this form from the City of Toronto before any materials are purchased or any construction begins.
A Pre-Existing Fence
If a fence is already in place and requires repairs or has been damaged, the responsibilities of both property owners can be a grey area. If both owners cannot come to an agreement to divide the costs in a fair manner, they can contact third parties to determine the best course of action. As part of the Ontario Line Fences Act, property owners can file an appeal to have Toronto city officials called ‘Fence-Viewers’ come inspect the boundaries and situation to mediate and legally assign responsibilities to both property owners as needed. The form to request their involvement can be found here, though it is always recommended to do everything possible to solve the dispute before consulting fence-viewers as there are often costs associated with their involvement. This is still a far less expensive option than resorting to involving lawyers, or even going to small claims court.
Other Factors to Consider
Oddly enough the exact positioning of the fence on the property isn’t much of an issue and has no bearing on who holds responsibility for the fence. It is often impractical to place the fence directly on the property line, so just because a fence may be more on your property than your neighbours does not indicate that the repairs are only your problem. It is also important to note that there are many regulations regarding fence size and placement in Toronto and that these rules must be abided by. If fence-viewers become involved and a fence doesn’t comply with city standards, there may be additional costs to alter the fence or you may be required to replace it with a new fence entirely.
Finding a reasonable solution with your neighbour will always be the less expensive option as opposed to finding outside mediation or taking any legal action. But if peaceful resolution isn’t possible there are other options that can be explored to hopefully find a timely and fair solution for all parties.