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There are many qualities to consider when choosing a house for purchase, including design, location, price and community attributes like schools, parks and recreational facilities. Interestingly, a recent story published in the Toronto Star entitled “Vacant house a nightmare for neighbour” by Jessica McDiarmid also reminds us that curb appeal and one’s would-be neighbours should perhaps be higher priorities than one might think. In fact, neighbours have a strange way of affecting the value of a house as well as one’s ability to enjoy it. When you really think about it, the age-old saying ‘be careful who you marry’ is quite fitting for the situation.

The advice often coupled with that phrase is that if you see certain flaws in the person you’re considering marrying, you should carefully assess whether you can live with them as they likely will not change. Natasha Priest and her husband, Sean MacMahon, are Toronto homeowners that have been stuck with a bad neighbour for 10 years—a vacant house with which their house shares a wall as semi-detached units. They assumed when buying their home that they would just have to wait until “they unloaded it”. Unfortunately, their 10-year “wait” has entailed garbage, uncut lawn and hedges, rodents, vagrants, structural issues and foul odours, all from the vacant house next door. They are concerned that damage may occur to their house because of the attached house. It may also affect their ability to sell their home and the price they can get for it.

In my post Is Your Property Up To Standard?, by-law requirements for the maintenance of houses and the land on which they stand was discussed. Ultimately, complaints about violations can be made to the city, which can inspect the property and issue emergency orders to the owner(s) to take immediate action for imminent safety concerns. The city can also fix problems and bill the owner for the cost of repairs and maintenance. However, there are a host of other problems that bad neighbours can cause which are annoying yet not emergencies. These generally take longer to resolve, sometimes involving legal actions. These are all good reasons to think seriously about the quality of your proposed neighbours when purchasing a home, especially one that is a semi-detached or a townhouse.

If you would like legal advice regarding a problem with your neighbour, please contact Andrea Kelly.


Andrea Kelly, Lawyer, has extensive experience in wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate administration matters.  She provides clients with a high standard of timely professionalism and expertise, incorporating a very thorough fact finding process.  This is quite often enlightening for her clients and facilitates individually tailored services.  If you would like to know more, feel free to use the easy contact form or read Andrea’s bio.

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