Property Law Columns
How much is a driveway dispute worth, really? Think twice before you sue!
“Why would anyone pursue seemingly hopeless litigation over the right of way to a mutual driveway?” wonders Bob Aaron. This is the story of a $150,000 driveway. Hayley Fromstein and James Albiez own...
When a real estate deal falls through, you should weigh whether litigation is worth it
Why resort to the courts when a transaction involving a sale of a house falls through? This case shows it can be unnecessarily costly, says Bob Aaron. Is it worth taking someone to court over a...
Toronto has another vacant unit tax and it’s complicated, scary
Along comes complicated federal Underused Housing Tax, just as property owners are busy filing returns for the city’s vacant unit tax, says Bob Aaron. As if property owners in Toronto didn’t have...
Toronto’s vacant home tax a surprise, its exemptions confusing
Empty homes face tax of one per cent of provincial assessment, but some do not, writes Bob Aaron. The deadline for declarations has been extended. The City of Toronto vacant home tax has caught many...
Found money in a house? That doesn’t necessarily entitle you to it
Instance of money being found in Bracebridge, Ont., focuses issue of unclaimed property in Ontario. It’s not always finders keepers, says Bob Aaron. When I heard that the Ontario Provincial Police...
Will you have to pay Toronto’s new Vacant Home Tax?
The 1 per cent charge on homes that go unoccupied for more than 6 months of the previous year is still a work in progress, write Bob Aaron. The City of Toronto’s new Vacant Home Tax is now in effect...
Toronto’s vacant home tax looms, and it will have ripples
The new annual tax kicks in on January 1 and home buyers should be vigilant to avoid being on the hook for penalties of up to $10,000. Toronto’s new annual tax on vacant residences kicks in on...
When does a home buyer legally own the property? Sooner than you may think
The old legal principle of ‘equitable conversion’ gives the buyer ownership once both sides have signed the deal, writes Bob Aaron. A compelling situation was raised in a Facebook group for real...
CREA steps back on a controversial new policy about home sale listings
The plan to begin mandatory public listings of homes for sale on Jan. 1 will now be put to a vote at the next annual general meeting, writes Bob Aaron. In the wake of a torrent of negative feedback,...
Expect court challenges to law banning non- Canadians from buying property
Is the new law a genuine effort by Parliament to regulate immigration and citizenship, or a back door attempt to regulate property law, asks Bob Aaron. After January 1, 2023, it will be illegal for...
Why forcing home sellers to publicly list their properties is a bad idea
Many sellers choose exclusive listings because they don’t want their homes’ details and sale prices known, writes Bob Aaron. The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has announced a change in its...
A home purchase offer is legally binding once it’s signed
A buyer is obliged to complete the deal whether or not the deposit is paid, writes Bob Aaron. If a buyer has a change of heart after signing a purchase agreement, but before paying the deposit, is...
When pre-construction home buyers face builder demands for more money
Construction problems such as foreseen costs, and shortages of labour and materials, are issues for builders — not purchasers — to resolve, writes Bob Aaron. Just because a builder demands more...
New provincial rules can’t stop pricey surprise fees for new homebuyers
Additional and high closing fees should not be billed to buyers in the final hours before their deals close, writes Bob Aaron. A group of buyers of new townhomes in Mississauga got the shock of...
It can cost you to back out of a purchase
Superior Court orders a buyer to pay over $600,000 to the builder of a Thornhill development where she walked away from her deal. Over the last five years, Ontario’s courts have been busy with...
Superior Court awards condo owner $30,000 in noise ruling
‘This singular issue has been outstanding ... for the better part of 10 to 11 years,’ writes the justice in her decision about garbage room clamour. A case released by the Superior Court last month...
Floor plan review is critical to a condo purchase
Make sure your lawyer confirms the unit you’re buying matches the building plans, writes Bob Aaron. A near disaster in closing 173 units in a new Guelph, Ont. condominium project last week...
Is it time to abandon the metric system in construction and real estate?
Our strange mix of using both Imperial and metric systems is hard to fathom by any measure, writes Bob Aaron. As Britain prepared to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last week, British Prime...
A ‘believe it or not’ home insurance case in Superior Court
Superior Court justice compares events to Ripley’s iconic tagline in his decision on litigation, writes Bob Aaron A court case involving the appraisal of a fire loss on a Toronto home was described...
Budget ’22 may rattle the resale of pre-built condos
Property speculation is targeted in the recent federal budget and has the potential to cause upheaval, writes Bob Aaron. The 2022 federal budget has the potential to create a huge upheaval in the...
Prevent condo cancellations with penalties against builders and better support for buyers
The Ontario government wants public input about how to stop developments from being cancelled. Now’s your chance to speak up, writes Bob Aaron. The issue of condominium project cancellations is the...
A growing and risky trend in pre-construction purchases is raising red flags
Buyers who gamble on flipping their purchase deals may be in financial trouble if the move is denied and they’re forced to close, writes Bob Aaron. Toronto real estate lawyer Mark Morris has raised...
A property survey could have prevented these homeowners from ending up in court
The issue of a garage built partially on a neighbour’s property was resolved under an obscure law, writes Bob Aaron. What happens if you build part of your house, cottage or garage on your...
Judge finds unwise use of smart doorbell in condominium
An Alberta court decision last month provides a useful lesson about how living in a condominium complex requires tolerance — and sometimes the compromise of deeply-held views and principles. Lillian...
A new home speculation tax would harm, not help the real estate market
Home prices would plummet, as they did with the new levy in ’74. I vividly recall that the housing market crashed overnight, writes Bob Aaron. My award for the worst real estate idea of the year —...
Hike in real estate transaction fee sparks lawsuit
The price increase by a software provider has been met with a class action while homebuyers face paying the extra cost. A sudden price increase by a supplier of software programs to real estate...
Social housing was Jon Harstone’s passion
He was a successful advocate of affordable homes in Toronto. And he was part of my family. With the passing of Jon Harstone at age 71 on New Year’s Day, Toronto lost one of its most successful and...
Court supports home buyers after purchase deals cancelled
An Ontario Superior Court justice blocks the resale of pre-construction homes and orders the case to arbitration, writes Bob Aaron. An important decision of the Ontario Superior Court may offer hope...
Courts say it’s on the buyers to confirm a home’s size
Prospective purchasers cannot rely on a published listing when it comes to the interior size of a home, writes Bob Aaron. A decision of Ontario’s Divisional Court serves as a reminder that home...
Purchase conditions make home buying less risky
In April, 2017, the Ontario government introduced a 15 per cent speculation tax on residential real estate purchases by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents. The tax had an...
A lien on your property title could really cost you
Laurie Stevenson thought she was buying a furnace and air conditioner for $7,335 when she signed a contract with a door-to-door salesman. Across the front of the document, she wrote “Total $7,335 0%...
Bats in the Bedroom Are Not the Home Seller’s Fault, Says a B.C. Court
A fair ruling or is it just downright batty? A colony of bats discovered by purchasers inside their home sparked a dispute that ended in a B.C. court with Judge Judith Doulis pronouncing it “an...
‘The Exorcist’ History of Their House Surprised, Entertained, New Owners
One spooky surprise taught these homeowners an important lesson about disclosure. When Danielle Witt and Ben Rockey-Harris were successful with their less-than-asking-price offer on a house in...
Help with bad tenants is on the way for condo owners
Condominium owners who rent out their units without credit and reference checks run the risk of being financially responsible for their tenant’s misbehaviour. Heidi Yee Hui owns a condominium on...
Do you have a licence for your home’s front yard parking?
Last September, a client of mine whom I will call Meghan purchased a beautifully renovated home in Midtown Toronto for a price well above asking. Built in the 1920s on a 30-foot lot, the home came...
Homebuyers get support from Superior Court about pre-closing damages to a property
A Superior Court decision in August provides valuable guidance on how buyers and sellers should act when a property suffers substantial damage before closing. In November, 2019, Sative Yan-Ling Tsui...
A homebuyer should know if they — or their lawyer — will get the title insurance referral fee
When a title insurer pays a referral fee to a lawyer for arranging a policy on a client’s property purchase, who should get the benefit of the fee — the lawyer or the client? For more than 20 years,...
A centuries-old law requiring Ontario landowners to work on local roads is coming off the books
Ontario has finally repealed a law — after a 200-year delay — which even today requires landowners to perform road work for local townships. Two years after the province of Upper Canada was...
The new holiday on September 30 will affect real estate purchase and sale closing dates
Anyone with a scheduled September 30 closing date on their real estate purchase or sale will have to change that date as the result of a new national holiday proclaimed in June. Bill C-5 is an act...
When does a home’s seller really have to move out?
It’s after 5 p.m. on June 30 and the home purchase transaction is complete. The new owner shows up with the keys and deed, only to be utterly shocked that the seller is still in the house — and...
Co-ops and co-ownership are emerging as alternatives to condos
With the rapid increase in the price of condominium units this year, some buyers are turning to co-ops and co-ownerships as an alternative. With the rapid increase in the price of condominium units...
New code of ethics for Ontario home builders is a step forward in protecting buyers
A code of ethics for builders and their staff which comes into force on July 1 has the potential to create a sea change in the marketing of new homes and condominiums. The first in Ontario’s...
Ontario’s courts are asked to step in when condo residents refuse to wear masks in their buildings’ shared areas
Living in a condominium community requires a balancing of the interests of those who live there. But when it comes to residents who refuse to wear masks during a pandemic, the courts have to decide...
Your cottage purchase may not include the property’s shoreline
In the early 19th century, the primary mode of transportation to much of the interior of what is now Ontario was by boat, along our lakes and rivers. When the colonial government provided free land...
Buyer beware: Ontario courts punish home purchasers who default on their offers
In the current chaotic residential real estate market, buyers are frequently submitting offers well in excess of either the listing price or the realistic market value. But transactions like this...
Superior Court lets home sellers keep the $20,000 deposit after the buyers backed away from the signed deal
Can a buyer terminate a transaction and get their deposit back if the published listing significantly overstates the size of a house? A Superior Court decision this past March addressed this...
Quick home flipping piques the interest of the CRA
An interesting case from the Tax Court of Canada last fall explores the issue of how many times a taxpayer can flip personal residences during a short period of time before the government will tax...
Surveys crucial in waterfront purchase
Last month I was asked to review an offer to purchase a $1.2 million waterfront cottage on Lake Simcoe. The experience underscored how important it is, especially in cottage transactions, to...
Personal touches can be ordered removed from condo properties’ common elements
Disputes over the unauthorized use of condominium common elements continue to appear in Ontario courtrooms. One recent case involved Irving and Nancy Kumer, who owned a luxury condominium townhouse...
Check into work orders and permits before you buy
Who is responsible when a home is so defective that it is deemed unsafe to occupy? That was the issue facing John Breen after he purchased a luxury cottage for $710,000 in 1999. The winterized...
Kids, including adopted adult children, can inherit Toronto Islands’ exclusive and restricted homes
Can a 90-year-old man adopt a 58-year-old adult as his son in order to allow the younger one to acquire ownership of his Toronto Island home? That was the question facing Justice Markus Koehnen in...
Who is liable if defects are found after a home inspection?
Can a home inspector avoid legal responsibility if is an exclusion of liability clause in the inspection contract? In February, 2009, Michael Smith retained Terry Gordon, a registered home...
It can be expensive to ignore the strict rules of a property easement
The Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered two Oakville, Ont. homeowners to pay $40,000 in court costs and to remove a swimming pool they had built on top of a utility easement.
New homeowners who discovered hidden troves of cash — and how Canada’s courts decided who got it
Bob Aaron email@example.com A discovery of $500,000 in cash and gold by Alberta homebuyers as they renovated their house in 2017 was the subject of my column in November...
Size does matter in published listings about properties for sale, says a pivotal new legal ruling
A century of Canadian legal precedents dealing with listings describing homes for sale were reversed late last year by an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that is being seen as one of the year’s most significant real estate law rulings.
Unfair burdens are put on homeowners’ families and heirs by delays at Toronto estates court
When the heirs of a GTA deceased homeowner decide it’s time to sell the property, it typically takes the Ontario estates court many months to rubber-stamp probate documents allowing the sale to proceed.
Do home buyers keep the $500K they discover in their house during renovations?
In his first-year law student text book, “Principles of Property Law,” prof. Bruce Ziff begins a chapter on lost objects with this statement: “The law of finding is not an area of pressing practical concern.”
The pandemic has dramatically changed how home buyers and sellers close their property deals
Anyone who has bought or sold a property since the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared in Ontario last March will have experienced a sea change in how these deals are legally closed.
Would you agree to buy a property that is haunted?
Young ghosts and goblins may be imagining the hauntings that have happened in their homes this Hallowe’en. For home buyers, the possibility of purchasing a residence associated with a haunting — or other dark event — can be a true nightmare.
Dispute over a property line fence stirs up a costly battle in Superior Court
Keep your neighbour disputes off the Internet.
Know your commitment about paying a real estate brokerage commission before you sign a listing agreement
Should home sellers have to pay commission on a sale if the transaction doesn’t close?
Refusing to close a property deal can be risky – and expensive
Refusing to close a deal for the unconditional sale of a home in a rising market is never a good idea. It can lead to expensive consequences.
Homebuyers should get clear details about fixtures and appliances — including HVAC — in their property deals
When homeowners agree to sell but neglect to note the property’s heating and cooling system is rented, chances are they will eventually have to buy out the rental contract.
Ensure your home purchase deal includes an inspection immediately before closing
It’s the night before closing, the seller has moved out and the buyer wants to do a last-minute inspection to ensure there’s been no damage since the last visit.
A buyer’s balk over an easement hinges on whether it restricts enjoyment of the property
Can a buyer ever back out of a purchase on the basis of registered easements that entitle third parties to particular rights on the land?
Expensive lessons: Courts tell buyers to pay up after backing out of real estate deals because of easements
Fighting failed real estate deals in court can be futile — and expensive — as shown by the verdicts in two recent Ontario cases.
A buyer’s hefty deposit is forfeited when a judge finds he “deliberately” breached his purchase contract
A buyer of a pre-construction townhouse in Markham found out the hard way what can happen if the property is resold before its closing date and without the builder’s permission.
Condo board ordered to pay damages to owner who breached no-smoking rule
How should a condominium board act when it receives complaints about a resident smoking in his unit?
‘Zombie’ property deeds are both alive and dead, say justices in Ontario’s top court
Can dead people sign property deeds?
Your property, and your family, deserve to be protected in your will
In these times of economic uncertainty, Canadians who own their own homes may be thinking about protecting them from health risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ONTARIO REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION endorses defective COVID-19 clauses
OREA fails its members and the public.
Alarm bells are raised over new COVID-19 legal clauses in real estate purchase and sale deals
One of Ontario’s most respected real estate lawyers has sounded the alarm against using untested COVID-19 clauses in property transactions.
Home sales, purchases go ahead with unprecedented virtual tools during the pandemic
There is good news and bad news for those of us in the real estate field during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why using a DIY building manual made a homeowner liable for negligent construction
A homeowner who used a “Reader’s Digest” manual to build a house that he later sold was found liable for negligent construction by the Ontario Superior Court earlier this month.
Ontario court rules this condo deal was the real deal
An Ontario court judge has ruled that buyers of a pre-construction condo unit could close their purchase transaction despite the builder terminating the deal.
Home buyers not helped by Tarion Warranty Corp.’s purchase rider, says Court of Appeal
Ontario’s highest court has levelled an unusually harsh blast at the Tarion Warranty Corporation, saying its compulsory addendum form which must be attached to every builder agreement is complex, difficult to follow and does not protect consumers.
Should you invest in an RRSP or pay down your mortgate?
February is RRSP season, and there is no shortage of advice available to Canadians on tax-free investing before the deadline of March 2.
How two different foot measures caused property chaos in the U.S.
When it comes to real estate, most Canadians speak in terms of Imperial measurement. The majority of home offers I see show frontage and depth measurements in feet, even though we officially switched to the metric system during the time of the first Prime Minister Trudeau.
How Tarion’s newly mandated info sheet falls short of truly helping condo buyers
Since the start of 2020, every new purchase agreement for a pre-construction residential condominium is required to have attached to it an information sheet highlighting important issues that are part of a pre-construction transaction.
How the courts have shown it’s ‘buyer beware’ when purchasing property
One of the questions I’m frequently asked by home sellers is what issues they must disclose during the negotiation of a sale agreement.
When agents face heat for illegal income apartments
How does an interested buyer know if a home’s basement apartment is legal? And what information about basement apartments must real estate agents provide to buyers?
Backing out of a home purchase can cost you
This past year’s GTA real estate market may become known as the year of aborted transactions.
What condo owners should know about e-votes and e-proxies
What’s better for Ontario condominiums and their owners: electronic proxies or electronic voting? And what’s the difference?
How a property survey could have prevented a pricey court judgment
I am regularly surprised at how frequently a land survey is viewed as
unnecessary when it could be considered the single most important
document in a real estate transaction.
Why electronic voting is clicking with condo owners
An easy solution to the problem of owner apathy in condominium buildings, and a simple way to encourage interest and participation, is to introduce electronic voting.
City sending mixed signals on tackling housing shortage
If the city of Toronto was serious about tackling the housing
shortage, why would it charge Toronto homeowners $300,000 to
legalize three bachelor apartments in their house?
Boundary dispute dissolves a purchase deal
When homebuyers discover before closing that the sellers are involved in boundary litigation with their neighbours, are they obliged to close the deal?
Blaze reveals why bargain hunting for property insurance is playing with fire
There’s nothing like having your property burn to the ground to focus your attention on the need for good property insurance.
Pre-construction contracts don’t leave wiggle room for market drops
In today’s real estate market, it’s not unusual for new home buyers to
find themselves in a dilemma.
Does First Canadian Title Live Up to it’s Marketing Promises?
Property owner stuck with $25,000 in court costs over cottage’s pre-existing issues
Shared maple tree pits neighbour against neighbour in court battle
“What could be more Canadian than Toronto neighbours arguing about building an addition on a house?” asked Justice Ed Morgan in one of his decisions released earlier this year. “Homeowners arguing about a maple tree, of course,” he continued.
Court gives a jolt to joint property owners
An Ontario Superior Court decision may change the law of joint land ownership and the right of survivorship when one owner dies.
Condo fined $10K for delay in door openers to assist disabled resident
The duty of a condominium corporation to accommodate disabled residents is highlighted by a decision from the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal released earlier this year.
Wayne and Shuster Lane tugs at this homeowner’s heartstrings
A celebration walk is set for tomorrow — June 23 — to dedicate eight newly-named laneways in the Palmerston/Little Italy area.
My personal favourite is the new Wayne and Shuster Lane, celebrating the famous comedians whose names were household words in Canada from the 1940s through to the ’90s. The laneway is located just west of Markham St., in the Bathurst and Harbord neighbourhood.
When you’ve got the keys to your new home but the sellers haven’t left
What happens when a real estate transaction closes, the keys and money have been exchanged, and the buyer arrives at his or her new property only to find the seller still there?
Murder irrelevant to sale, court finds
Is a homeowner obliged to disclose to a potential purchaser that the house was the site of a gang murder? This was the key issue last month in a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which reversed a 2018 trial court decision.
Homeowners should seek legal advice when estate planning
Buried in last month’s provincial budget is a measure designed to reduce the cost of obtaining probate — “to provide tax relief for families when they need it most, as the death of a loved one is a difficult time.”
If you’re eyeing a cottage property, don’t just look for water, look for road access
Next month marks the start of cottage season — a good time for a reminder that buying rural property is much different than buying in the city.
Appeal court agrees: Condo developers need to disclose all features to buyers
The Ontario Court of Appeal has affirmed the obligations of condominium developers to provide buyers with complete and transparent disclosure of a proposed project’s features.
This includes a budget statement which fairly and accurately reveals the costs that purchasers will have to pay in the first year of their ownership.
Dangers of using a Seller Property Information Statement. It can cost you big.
A court case decided in Bracebridge last month emphasizes the risks of using a Seller Property Information Statement.
It also illuminates the risks of having the same agent act for both the buyer and seller.