Whether it’s reno work at 6 am or loud music around the clock, neighbour disputes have been around since people used sticks and fire to deter unwanted cave visitors. Some common neighbour complaints in the modern age include noise, fences, trees/hedges, smoke and pets. Let’s take a look at how to resolve these common neighbour disputes, keeping in mind that laws differ not only from province to province but also from town to town.
Always collect and keep evidence of any difficulties with your neighbours. For example, if it’s noise, record the problem with a date/time stamp. If you send a demand letter, make sure to keep a copy of the document, plus proof they received it. Evidence may be needed if the case escalates.
What can you do about a noisy neighbour?
Your options for dealing with a noisy neighbour depends on what’s causing the noise, what time of day or night it occurs and how serious the problem is. For example, if you are bothered by a dog barking or loud music in cities like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, you could call 311, submit a complaint online or in some cases, call your municipality’s local security. Each town sets their own rules about what is noise – leaf-blowers, as an example, are banned in some places but not others – and what the “quiet hours” are. If the situation is more severe and you hear someone outside screaming, using obscene language or appears intoxicated – you may want to call the police because that behaviour can be considered criminal.
If your neighbour is simply annoying, it is always best to first speak to them directly – and calmly. It is possible they have no idea they are bothering you. They don’t know how their music sounds in your apartment. Same for heavy walkers, yappy dogs and hallways talkers. So the first step is the friendly approach – explain what you’re hearing, why it bothers you and propose some solutions: putting down carpet, keeping windows closed, keeping their voices down at night, etc.
Fences make good neighbours?
Local bylaws set the rules for what you can and can’t do regarding fences – and some municipalities are stricter than others. In some places, there are bylaws that dictate what kind
of fence you can put up, what it can be made of, and how high it can be. In other places, you’re on your own, as long as the fence is entirely on your property. The rules can be complicated. Please get in touch with us BEFORE you tear down a fence – or put one up. Same for hedges. And trees (see below).
If the fence is right along the property line, you may both be responsible for its upkeep and you cannot take it down without getting the ok from your neighbour. It is wise to have a written agreement in these cases. In some cities, like Montreal and Toronto, there may be mediation services available for these kinds of disputes. Reach out to us to discuss your case.
If a tree falls…
As for trees, many bylaws say that if your neighbour’s tree is growing over the property line, you can cut it back but only to the line. You cannot go onto your neighbour’s property to cut the tree. Please don’t do that, no matter how angry you may be, no matter how many times you have asked them to trim it. Call us. We can help you solve the problem the right way.
If your tree damages your neighbour’s property, say by a branch falling onto their pool shed or atrium, this could be a problem in some municipalities, especially if you were warned about the offending branch and opted not to act. In other cases, if it’s just really windy and a branch from your neighbour’s tree crashes your window, unless negligence can be proven, you may be stuck with the cost. And the cleanup. And the branch.
As we wrote about in our recent article on the rights of renters, in some provinces, like BC and Ontario, tenants with older leases may be exempt from any no-smoking rule in the newer leases. However, if you can show that you are being negatively affected by second-hand smoke, the landlord may have to remedy the situation. You may also rely upon regulations like the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which makes it illegal to smoke or vape any substance in public spaces, including the common areas of condos and apartments (laundry rooms, hallways, etc.).
Pets and mess
In most places, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when off your property, unless you’re in an off-leash designated area like a dog park. If you’re not on your own lawn, you must pick up after your pet.
Unlike when a dog attacks, there is generally not a high priority placed on catching those who don’t pick up after their dog. Yes, there are bylaws that say everyone must clean up their own dog’s mess, and yes, there can be fines of a few hundred dollars, but there are a LOT of dogs and not that many enforcement officers. So what can you do if you see a dog using your
property as a depository? Talk to its owner. Calmly. Perhaps they don’t know the rules. Maybe they are not certain where the garbage bins are. It could have been a one-time accident… in all cases, be helpful and not confrontational. And if you’ve got a door camera, talking to someone whose dog messed up your lawn would be a good time to point it out.
Once you have tried to resolve a neighbour’s issue on your own, do not hesitate to seek out legal advice. We will assess the bylaws where you live, make sure your evidence is in place and that the case is properly filed and seen through to the end. We are here to help.
Articles on the LegalShield.ca website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or opinion in any manner. Laws mentioned in the articles vary from province to province. Any links to third-party sites in our articles are for general information purposes only and LegalShield is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, the content of linked sites. It is always advisable to seek legal counsel – and LegalShield can help.