There is a saying that goes Good fences make good neighbours. But not everyone is lucky enough to have good neighbours! Sometimes the behaviour of neighbours leads to conflicts.
To help avoid some of these conflicts, the law creates rights and responsibilities between neighbours.
In this article, Éducaloi explains the main rules that apply between neighbours.
Note that this article must be read along with the particular rules set by your local government. These rules could change some of the answers given here.
What is a neighbourhood annoyance?
Neighbourhood annoyances are inconveniences caused by a neighbour, for example, noise, odors, dust or smoke.
Of course, unless you live on a deserted island, it is completely normal to hear your neighbour's lawn mower late on a Saturday morning! But sometimes the annoyance becomes so severe that it stops us from fully enjoying our homes.
A "neighbourhood annoyance" is an inconvenience that is serious and that is non-stop or happens over and over again. Whether an inconvenience amounts to a neighbourhood annoyance depends on the particular neighbourhood. For example, some inconveniences may be normal in a farming community but not in a city.
Annoyances between neighbours can also relate to views and rights of way, in addition to trees and fences. Since questions about trees and fences are often at the heart of these conflicts, we have an entire article on the issue: Trees and Fences.
Note that renters also have a right to enjoy their homes in peace: neighbourhood annoyances can arise between renters in the same building or between a renter and the owner of a nearby building. When the annoyance is caused by a renter, she and the building owner can be held responsible. To learn more, see our article Responsibilities of Landlords.
What do we mean by "neighbour"?
Even though there is no legal definition of what is a neighbour, distance is an important factor to consider.
This is means any inconvenience caused by a neighbour who is somewhat nearby can be considered a neighbourhood annoyance. For example, the courts have found that people 1.5km apart can be considered to be neighbours.
A neighbour does not have to be a person. A business can also be a neighbour.
The noise from my neighbour's heat pump is keeping me awake. What can I do?
First, you should know that most municipalities have by-laws about maximum noise levels and the location of heat pumps. Get in touch with your municipality to find out about your rights. It is possible your neighbour will be obliged to fix the situation or risk paying a fine.
If your municipality does not have any rules on heat pumps, the law still protects your right to peace and quiet. So if the heat pump noise prevents you from fully enjoying your property, it could be considered to be a neighbourhood annoyance.
Can I go onto my neighbour's property to renovate my shed?
You can access your neighbour's land with permission.
If access is necessary to build, maintain or repair something belonging to you, your neighbour must give permission. But in these cases, you must still in notify your neighbour first verbally or in writing that you need access.
Important! The law says you can go onto your neighbour's property only if there is no other way to do the work. You can't do this just because it is easier or more convenient to go across the neighbour's property.
If you damage your neighbour's property even though you were careful, you must repair the damage.
I have the feeling my neighbour is spying on me! Is there a rule on the positioning of windows?
Yes. You cannot have any windows or doors with transparent glass within 1.5 metres of the dividing line between your property and your neighbour's.
This rule applies even if your neighbour is not spying on you! However, if the view from the door or window gives onto a street or park, or if the door is panelled or has glass that is semi-transparent, these restrictions do not apply.
My neighbour built a hot tub that is partly on my property. What can I do?
You should start by telling your neighbour that her hot tub is partly on your property. She may be able to move it. If this is not possible, you have a few options.
If your neighbour did not know that she had built partly on your property and the hot tub does not cause you a lot of inconvenience, you can ask her to
- pay you money for the loss of property, OR
- buy the part of the property she built on.
To protect yourself and avoid headaches if and when you sell your property, you can consult a notary, who will record everything in a written agreement.
If your neighbour didn't know she was building on your land and the hot tub is causing you a lot of inconvenience (for example, it blocks the entry to your garage) OR if she intentionally built on your property, you can require her to remove it and return your property to its original state.
My chalet is on a lakefront and I don't have any access to it by road. What can I do?
You are entitled to have road access to your chalet. To remedy the situation, you can ask one of your neighbours to give you a right of way to connect your chalet to a road.
If you can't get one of your neighbours to agree to this, you have a right to demand a right of way on the route that will cause the least damage and be the most practical for everyone.
Note that you might have to pay money to compensate whichever neighbour gives you a right of way. Also, you will have to maintain this passageway and use it in a way that causes the least inconvenience.
To confirm your right of way, you will need to consult a notary, who will create the official documents. The notary will help you decide on the best route for the right of way, who will have access, how long you will have access, etc.
My neighbour recently installed rain gutters and now the rainwater falls directly on my property. What can I do?
Property owners must each ensure that water, snow and ice coming off their roofs or rain gutters falls on their own properties and not on a neighbour's.
Most municipalities have rules on the distance a building must be from the property line. Ask your municipality what the rules are in your area.
What are the solutions for neighbourhood annoyances?
The first solution is, of course, to try to come to an understanding with your neighbour.
If speaking to your neighbour or a demand letter do not work, you can file an action in court to
- be compensated (get money), or
- ask the court to order your neighbour to fix the problem.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.