Although most of us are lucky enough to live next door to reasonable and friendly people, living in a City means that sometimes we get in each other’s way. If you are building a fence, have a dog or a pool or are planning a big backyard party there are some rules and by-laws you should be aware of to avoid conflict with your neighbours.
Putting a fence on your property can be a good idea. It can protect your privacy, protect your property and give your children or pets a safe and confined place to play. Fences are even required in some situations (most commonly, when you have a backyard pool).
When you are considering building a fence there are a few things you should keep in mind. In the planning stage, you should make sure that you know where the boundary lines are located between your property and your neighbours’ properties. Do not assume that a fence that’s already in place is an accurate indicator of where the boundary is. If you have an up-to-date survey that should help you determine the boundary line.
If you don’t have an up-to-date survey, you can retain an Ontario Land Surveyor to determine the legal boundary of your property. If you and your neighbour have mutually decided to put a fence on the property line, you may want to ask them to contribute to the cost of getting a survey.
When a fence is placed on the property line, it is owned jointly by both adjacent property owners. This is the case even if you pay for the entire cost of the fence. If you want your neighbour to contribute to the cost of building a jointly owned fence and they refuse, you can force them to share the cost under the Fence By-law only if you erect a 4 foot high chain link fence. Once the fence is built, your neighbour should contribute to the cost to repair, replace or maintain the fence under the City of London Fence By-Law.
If your neighbour doesn’t want to contribute to the cost of building the fence then you may want to consider installing it a few inches on your side of the boundary line so that you have ownership of the entire fence.
If your neighbour is the City (for example, your property borders a City park), you may still build a fence. However, you must obtain a licence from the City and agree to remove the fence if directed to do so by the City.
Even if you have a fence up on your property, you still may be required to allow your neighbours to have access to your property in certain situations. The City of London Access to Adjoining Property By-law requires you to allow your neighbours to come onto your land to carry out repairs, alterations or improvements to their own property. In turn, they must give you 48 hours notice and must repair any damage they cause to your property.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when constructing a fence on your property. Generally, fences can be no more than seven feet high, and where they would affect visibility of a driveway or a corner they can be no more than three feet high. Shrubs and hedges are also considered to be fences for the purpose of driveway and corner visibility. As well, certain types of fences are not allowed, including barbed wire fences and electric fences.
Everyone loves to stay cool in the summer, and a quick dip in a backyard pool can provide welcome relief on London’s hot summer days. There are however some rules you should be aware of if you own a backyard pool.
The City of London’s Swimming Pool Fence By-law requires that swimming pools with a depth of more than 75 centimeters at any point and a surface area of more than 1 square metre must be enclosed by a swimming pool fence. A swimming pool cannot be constructed without obtaining a swimming pool fence permit from the City and the Swimming Pool Fence By-law makes it an offence to have or construct a swimming pool without a swimming pool fence.
If you are building a swimming pool and a swimming pool fence you should always ensure that you obtain the proper permits from the City. You also have to be mindful of any damage caused to City property and of preventing debris from your construction landing on neighbouring properties or City streets.
There are some requirements for swimming pool fences that make them different from regular fences. A gate in a swimming pool fence must be self-closing and self-latching and the self-latching device must be at least 48 inches off the ground. Items may not be stored leaning up against a swimming pool fence and the fence itself must not be easy to climb. The swimming pool fence must be sturdy, and capable of preventing unauthorized entry. The bottom of the fence must be no higher than four inches off the ground and the fence must be at least 60 inches tall.
Having a swimming pool fence to these specifications is required, but it also goes a long way toward keeping your neighbourhood a safe place and preventing small children and pets from getting too close to the pool when unattended. You should regularly check your swimming pool fence to ensure that there are no loose boards or gaps. You should also make sure not to lean or store anything against the fence that would allow a child to climb the fence more easily.
Backyard or House Parties
A backyard party can be a great way to socialize in the summer but can provide several pitfalls for the unwary host.
The noise from a backyard party can be a major nuisance to neighbours. The City of London’s Noise By-law disallows any “unreasonable noise”. This is defined as noise that is likely to disturb inhabitants. Although you can be charged with a noise violation at any time, this provision generally means that the later it gets the quieter your party should be in order to avoid disturbing your neighbours.
The Noise By-law also automatically deems certain noises to be unreasonable. These include sounds from speakers and loud shouting or singing, all of which are common party noises. If you have outdoor speakers, consider turning them off and moving the party inside later in the evening.
If you plan on roasting marshmallows or hotdogs over a fire pit, you should ensure that your fire pit is enclosed. Under the City of London’s Open Air Burning By-law, open air burning is only allowed between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, unless the fire is being used for cooking. You may have a cooking fire from the hours of 11 a.m. to midnight.
Your fire pit must be made from non-combustible material and must be located on a non-combustible surface that is as wide as the fire pit is high. When setting your fire, you must also be conscious of the wind conditions, as a fire is not permitted if the wind exceeds 15 kilometers per hour.
It is also important to ensure that you completely extinguish your fire at the end of your party to prevent the accidental spread of fire to your property or your neighbours’ properties. A person who fails to take reasonable precautions with their fire may be liable in negligence for any damage their fire causes.
Another important thing to remember is that if your guests drink too much you should help them find their way home by calling a cab or offering to let them sleep at your house. A social host has not yet been found liable to third parties injured by a guest. However, the courts will look at each situation on a case by case basis. In each case, the court will consider the relationship between the host and injured party to determine whether it is sufficiently close to impose liability. Additionally, legal liability might arise if the host does something that implicates them in the creation or exacerbation of the risk of injury, such as over-serving drinks.
While dogs provide companionship there are several by-laws which impact on dog owners. Owners should be aware of the rules in order to keep their dogs safe and avoid annoying their neighbours.
Under the City of London’s Dog Licensing & Control By-law owners are allowed to keep a maximum of three dogs per household. Dogs must be registered with the City and owners must have a valid licence for their dogs at all times.
When walking your dog, you must ensure that it is on a leash no more than two meters in length and must also pick up after your dogs. Further, repeated noises from animals such as barking or howling are also deemed to be unreasonable noises under the City of London’s Noise By-law.
Owners must also prevent their dogs from “running at large”, including keeping the dog leashed when they are anywhere other than your own premises or a designated off-leash area. If a dog is caught running at large by an Animal Control Officer or a police officer, the dog can be impounded and the owner will have to pay to get the dog back.
It’s important to keep proper control over your dogs and to properly train them. The Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act imposes liability on the owner for damages caused by dog bites. As well, if your dog bites someone, or even another dog, you may be required to muzzle your dog. If you are required to muzzle your dog, you will also have to pay to have a microchip implanted in your dog. If your dog is later found running at large, the microchip will allow authorities to identify you as the owner of the dog. If your dog is found to be a dangerous dog, it may be euthanized.
Additional restrictions apply depending on the breed of dog you own. Under the City of London Pit Bull Dog Licensing By-law, you are not allowed to own a pit bull dog unless that dog was born in Ontario between August 29 and November 26, 2005, or was owned by a resident of Ontario on August 29, 2005. If you do have a pit bull dog that meets this description, you must have a pit bull dog license for the dog. Under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, you may not sell, breed, or import a pit bull. You must also not allow a pit bull to stray or train a pit bull for fighting. The Dog Owner’s Liability Act makes these activities offenses, and a person convicted of one of these activities may be liable for a fine of up to $10,000 or six months’ imprisonment.
At all times when they are not within an enclosed property, a pit bull dog must be muzzled and leashed by a leash not more than 1.8 metres long. Pit bull dogs must also be spayed or neutered.
Knowing and following the above rules can go a long way toward preventing neighbour disputes and ensuring a friendly and happy neighbourhood environment. Following the rules regarding leashed dogs, swimming pool fences, and open air burning can also help protect you from personal liability in negligence.
Laura practices in Siskinds’ General Litigation group and can be reached at email@example.com or 519-660-7714.
 City of London, by-law No PS-6, Fence By-law (20 March, 2012)
 City of London, by-law No A-6, Access to Adjoining Property By-law (15 November, 1993)
 City of London, by-law No PS-5, Swimming Pool Fence By-law (3 May, 2010)
 City of London, by-law No PW-12, Noise By-law(25 June, 2011)
 City of London, By-law No F-7, Open Air Burning By-Law (14 May, 2007)
 City of London, By-law No PH-4, Dog Licensing & Control By-law (30 August, 2011)
 Dog Owners’ Liability Act, RSO, 1990, c D16
 City of London, By-law No PH-12, Pit Bull Dog Licensing By-law (6 November, 2006)