Disputes Between Neighbours
Disputes between neighbours happen far more often than we might think. Neighbourly quarrels and disagreements are never enjoyable, and most of us try to avoid them at all costs. However, sometimes we simply can't avoid these conflicts. Therefore, we must figure out the best course of action for ourselves and all parties involved.
Disputes can vary from minor, petty annoyances - like someone mowing their lawn at 6 am every Sunday morning, to major grievances that can cause serious damage - like a neighbour's tree falling on your house. Here is a list of the top 10 most common problems we encounter in the field...
1. Property limits and boundaries
2. Fences, hedges, and walls
3. Noise complaints
5. Servitudes and rights of passage
6. Trees, roots, and branches
7. Water runoff
9. Renovation work
10. Zoning violations
It is always best to try to settle any neighbourly dispute amicably, even if you don't get along with your neighbour. Whenever a problem arises, it's preferable to address it as quickly as possible and be clear and specific about the problem. Unless the tension between neighbours is already high, we often recommend that both parties talk to each other in person, face-to-face. Most of the time, disputes are the result of poor communication between neighbours. They can easily be resolved once both parties are listening and being receptive to one another's concerns. However, we all know that peaceful and amicable settlements are not always possible - especially when someone is particularly unreasonable.
We were recently involved in a dispute for a client of ours in Kirkland who discovered an issue with his neighbour's patio. The problem was unknown to our client until they had their certificate of location updated. It was only then that they realized the next-door neighbour's uni stone terrace was encroaching on their land and that it had been this way for years without their knowledge.
What makes this case even more complex is that our client is planning on selling their home next spring, and an encroachment such as this can have a negative impact on the resale value of the property.
We advised our client to approach the neighbour in question. They made a few attempts to knock on their door and speak with them face-to-face but to no avail. They then followed up with a very polite and carefully worded letter which they left in their neighbour's mailbox, hoping to start a friendly dialogue so that both parties could discuss the issue in more detail. Unfortunately, all our clients got back was an angry, threatening letter in response, stating that their neighbour refused to have any discussion on the matter whatsoever.
They argued that the patio had been that way ever since they had it installed 5 years prior, and that nobody had complained then, so why should they now? The problem was when they had the patio done, their landscaper failed to consult their certificate of location and therefore did not respect the property line. Instead, they built the stone patio right up against our client's fence, which was inside our client's property, to protect their pool. This is why our clients never noticed that the patio was encroaching on their land because they couldn't see it from their backyard.
We advised our clients to consult several experts, including the land surveyor who had just prepared their new certificate of location, a landscaper, a notary, and of course, a lawyer. They were advised that they had every right to demand that the neighbour remove their patio from their side of the property line and even obtained estimates for the cost to do so. They presented this evidence, supported by experts, as well as a proposal to split the cost evenly with the neighbour to have the patio moved back by a few inches to respect the property boundaries, but were again rudely and aggressively rejected.
Now they had a decision to make… was this worth going to civil court over?
On the one hand, they stood a very good chance of winning their case, as all evidence seemed to lay in their favour. On the other hand, however, they were getting ready to sell the home, and if it went to court and the case was not resolved before the house hit the market... they would have no choice but to declare the issue to any potential buyers.
In the end, even though the neighbour was difficult and unreasonable, our clients decided to simply let it go. We would simply declare to all potential buyers that the encroachment existed and that it caused no disruption to the use and enjoyment of the backyard, even if, in principle, it felt like an injustice.
Sometimes we must pick our battles carefully. An unsettled dispute in the process of litigation can have a tremendous negative impact on the value of the property when we try to sell it. Who wants to inherit a legal dispute when buying a new home? In this case, our clients decided it simply wasn't worth all that trouble.
As a result of our experience with this particular case, we discovered that there are also government resources available to the public through the Ministère de la Justice de Québec. Citizen mediation services are available free of charge, as long as both parties are willing to sit down together.
Here is a link to those services: https://www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/en/your-disputes/dispute-prevention-and-resolution-dpr-processes/mediation/citizen/
If you or someone you know is experiencing a dispute with a neighbour, please don't hesitate to reach out to Team Broady. We'd be happy to help point you in the right direction! Contact us at 514-613-2988 or email@example.com