Considerations for Buying Rural Properties
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing information on rural property in Ontario and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive. Updated October 2023.
Driven by rising house prices and the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 64,000 people left Toronto between mid-2020 and mid-2021. Many families are reevaluating their situations and are seeking greener pastures, quite literally.
Rural properties are becoming more popular as people are looking for more space and a slower pace of life. If you’re considering making a move to the country, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
There are considerations that you will want to consider for your family. For example, if you work from home, consider the internet quality and reliability in the area. If you have children, consider the schools and extra-curricular activities that are available. Don’t forget to account for the extra-long commute when you do need to go to the office.
However, from a legal standpoint, there are also differences in purchasing a rural property compared to an urban or suburban one. In this article, we will outline those unique requirements.
- Road and waterfront access
- Septic systems
- Water tests
- Shared wells
- Planning Act contraventions
- Surveys and boundary issues
Of course, we encourage you to book a call with our team as soon as you have made an offer on your next dream home. We’re here to help and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Accessing Your Dream Home
You may have found your dream home, but can you access it?
Road access can be a critical concern, especially for waterfront or vacation properties. Sometimes, the access road or driveway crosses private land, and there may be no guaranteed legal right of use. Responsibilities for road maintenance are often unclear, creating the risk of access restrictions or unexpected repair expenses.
Your lawyer’s title search may involve tracing legal access through private properties to connect to a municipal road. Title insurance can help resolve access problems, but it’s not always available.
In Ontario, many bodies of water are encircled by a shoreline road allowance owned by the Crown. Typically, municipalities sell this road allowance to property owners. If this applies to the property you’re buying, it might encompass multiple parcels and PINs (Property Identification Numbers).
When reviewing a legal description that references a past instrument number, your lawyer will have to verify that it covers all the land you expect to acquire.
For properties where the shoreline road allowance hasn’t been purchased and conveyed, inquire about the proximity of any improvements to the water’s edge. Suspicion of encroachments onto the shoreline road allowance should prompt consideration of obtaining a survey.
Septic Systems Inspection
When you are buying a rural home that has a septic system, you will want to do a septic system inspection. In fact, your lender will usually required that it be done before approving your mortgage.
Many homeowners that are selling will provide it automatically, but if not, you will need to get this done.
The septic systems inspection will check items such as the size of the septic tank, the location of the leach field, and the condition of both. The inspector will also look for any signs of damage or leaks. This is important because if there are any problems with the septic system, it can be very expensive to fix.
Another inspection that you will need to have done is a water inspection. If your home has a well, then you want to make sure that the water that you are getting is safe. Poor water quality can cause health problems, taste unpleasant or be costly to treat.
Therefore, if the seller does not provide this information to you, you will need to have a water inspection conducted to ensure that your water is not contaminated. Your realtor or our team can direct you how to have those tests completed.
Shared Wells & Shared Well Agreements
Rural real estate transactions can present unique challenges, and one such complexity involves shared wells. In rural areas, properties might rely on wells, some of which are shared among neighbors.
If you’re considering purchasing a property with a shared well, there are several crucial considerations.
Shared Well Agreement: Verify if there is a shared well agreement in place. The absence of such an agreement can lead to disputes and confusion regarding maintenance, repairs, and water usage responsibilities. Ensure there’s an agreement before finalizing your purchase.
Existing Shared Well Agreement: If a shared well agreement exists, obtain a copy and review it with legal counsel to understand your rights and obligations. The agreement should outline maintenance, cost-sharing, and water usage limitations.
Well and Water Quality: Assess the condition of the shared well and the water quality. If issues arise, negotiate repairs or upgrades with other parties sharing the well.
Risks and Limitations: Understand the potential risks of shared wells, such as contamination or overuse. Shared well agreements can restrict property modifications, so consider how they impact your future plans, such as pool installation or well expansion.
Title Restrictions: Unlike shared driveways, shared well agreements are typically not registered on property titles. However, it’s advisable to have such agreements prepared and passed from owner to owner.
Learn more about shared wells here.
Planning Act Contraventions
Because rural properties are generally not part of a plan of subdivision, our team will check for any Planning Act contraventions as part of our title search process.
If you are purchasing a property that is either zoned agricultural or mixed-use, you will likely need to have a survey done before purchasing the property.
Otherwise, you may opt to have a survey done to be sure of the property boundaries. This is especially true if your property is large and open, with no fencing to mark those boundary lines.
This is something that you can discuss with your realtor or our team. Surveys can take months to complete, so unless it is zoned, as noted above, you can have that completed following your closing date.
Make a Move: Buying a Rural Property in Ontario With Beeksma Law
As you move out to the country, be sure to take the proper legal steps in your move. With offices in Hamilton and Owen Sound, Beeskma Law is poised to be able to handle your transition from urban to rural living. Our team is experienced in rural property transactions and would be more than happy to help you with any questions that you may have. Contact us today!