Wednesday, November 13, 2019 / by Zifan Gao
Do you consider your potential new neighbours when purchasing a property? Homebuyers tend to forget that when you buy a new property, you are also buying into a relationship with your neighbours that could be decades and decades-long. You want to factor that relationship into your purchasing decision and at least do some rudimentary research on any ongoing disputes between the current property owners and others. You also want to make sure that you don't end up being the 'nasty neighbour' yourself by making significant changes to your property without community approval.
Here’s Boiron Group's 2019 field guide to common neighbour nastiness:
1. 'Tree' Jerk Reactions:
According to professional mediator Jeanette Bicknell of Bicknell Mediation, more than half of the neighbour conflicts that she sees are tree-related. The desire to protect trees from being cut down or trimmed "makes people crazy" and sparks outrage in generally congenial neighbours.
2. A history of being difficult
Bicknell also flags the dangers of building Non-traditional house designs in traditional or historic neighbourhoods. Neighbours in these areas are very well organized and take a strong interest in the aesthetic choices of anyone building on a property.
"You are certainly entitled to build your dream house, but you may not be entitled to build something that looks like it's from the future in a neighbourhood of historic homes," said Bicknell. "If you are planning to build something inconsistent with the historic preservation of a significant neighbourhood, you could be in for a lengthy and costly court battle. You are probably better off finding a neighbourhood that will appreciate your design sense."
It's also worth noting that you can work with your immediate neighbours to keep the front-facing exterior design historically correct, but be more modern in design on the sides and back of the property.
3. McMansions = McHeadaches
Similarly, large homes replacing smaller homes can be a catalyst for costly neighbour disputes. (Ironically, people would say things like, "It will bring down my property values," when the exact opposite is more likely.)
4. 'Height' of conflict:
When they can't build out, people try to build up. This can cause a lot of conflict if your neighbours feel like your new floor is blocking their backyard sunshine etc.
5. Deck dealings
When adding or expanding decks, neighbours will likely worry you can look into their backyards compromising their privacy. Get ready for frustration, delays, and extra fees to planners & architects as you have to may have to make multiple visits to the Committee of Adjustments.
The actual cost of being a jerk?
All of these disputes range in price depending on which experts need to be involved and the number of appeals and documents that have to be prepared but generally:
Architect: $175 + an hour (up to $2500 - $3000 + per drawing for your challenge at the Committee of Adjustments.)
Real Estate Lawyer/ Litigation Lawyer: $5k-16k (including experts for testimony.)
Total cost of being a jerk: $7,500 - $19,000+
Condo disputes can also get costly quickly
Condo disputes get costly because the Condominium Act allows boards to chargeback legal fees that boards incur when they try to enforce rules. If you are a serial noisy neighbour, you'll get a warning from the property manager or security, then you'll get a lawyer's letter and be charged about $300 for the lawyer's fees. If you continue to make noise and it goes to mediation, you'll pay your own lawyer fees and share the cost of mediation ($1,000 and up). If you still do not come to a resolution and the matter requires arbitration, you can be looking at a shared fee of $10,000.
Owners are also held responsible for negative actions of their tenants (such as noise disturbances, etc.) so pick any tenants wisely.
Total cost of being a jerk: $300 - $10,000
Condo dispute costs tend to be the about same, regardless of the exact nature of the argument. In general, the longer something goes on, (whether its noise, pets, odours, or cigarette butts) the more it costs. According to Jeanette Bicknell, generally, the more ‘unreasonable’ someone is (whether the Board or an owner), the higher the costs the judge will award against them. Judges really do 'reward' people for trying to work things out.
Navigating neighbour nastiness (how to avoid neighbour nastiness before it starts)
1. Probe with a Poodle…
One of the best ways to get honest information on your potential neighbours and head off conflicts before they start is to simply canvas the area and ask residents what the neighbours are really like. If you want to do that in a completely non-threatening and non-creepy way, consider walking your (or a friend’s) dog around the block – a cute dog is an excellent conversation starter.
2. Ring Their Bell
Another seemingly simple way to swerve neighbour conflict is to actually talk to your neighbours to try and resolve any conflict. Getting a notice in the mail just isn't the same as having a discussion with your neighbour, and if you are doing construction, you may need to access your neighbour’s property and inconvenience them with noise, equipment and construction debris.
In the era of online, agent-less real estate transactions, missing these key concerns seems more and more likely. If you want to avoid getting lost in the details and ultimately need professional advice to close a good deal or not purchase a problematic property, give us a call at 416-804-5555.