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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.

That includes:

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.

Water Test

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.

Surveys

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!

Small Spaces, Big Questions: Navigating Land Leases and Legalities for Tiny Homes in Ontario

an image of a tiny home in ontario

Disclaimer: This article on owning a tiny home in Ontario is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It 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.

As rents and housing prices become increasingly less affordable, more Ontarians are looking into tiny homes. For example, Ancaster’s first Tiny Homes Show was held in August 2022 and drew over 2,000 visitors and had over 20 speakers presenting on a variety of topics. Shows like Tiny House Nation have become increasingly popular and many wonder if a tiny home may be the solution. 

With their cozy interiors, clever design features, and the promise of financial freedom, tiny homes have become appealing. Many see tiny homes as a way to downsize, reduce their ecological footprint, and embrace a more intentional way of living.

However, what legal issues should you consider before selecting your floor plans? What are the challenges to legally owning and parking a tiny home? What should you consider if you want to build a tiny home in Ontario?

This article will consider these questions and more. Whether you are looking at a tiny home or a [something], it is important to have the right real estate lawyer by your side. Our team of legal experts will guide you through the intricacies of home ownership, helping you navigate the legal landscape and ensure compliance with local regulations.

What is a Tiny Home?

In Ontario, a tiny home refers to a small, self-contained dwelling that typically ranges from 100 to 500 square feet in size. These homes are designed to maximize functionality and efficiency within a limited space. Tiny homes in Ontario often prioritize sustainable living, minimalism, and affordability, making them an attractive alternative to traditional housing options.

While each municipality will have its own requirements, the tiny house construction bylaws mandate that a tiny home must measure between 17.5 ft2 (188 ft2) and 37 m2 (400 ft2 ). It must also meet these requirements: 

  • It must meet the Ontario Building Code requirements for health and safety; 
  • You must be able to live in it year-round
  • It must have an area for dining, living and sleeping and have a functional kitchen and bathroom. 
  • It must have sewage and water hookups. 

Financing your tiny home 

It’s worth noting that it’s incredibly difficult to secure financing for your tiny home. Lenders are reluctant to provide traditional mortgage loans for tiny homes due to their unique nature and less confidence in their resale value. However, there are still financing options available to help you fund your tiny home project. For example, if you are purchasing from a tiny home builder, they will typically have their own financing plans in place.

Municipal requirements for your tiny home in Ontario

The municipality where you intend to park your tiny home will have various bylaws and zoning requirements that may affect you. 

These include:

  • Minimum lot size
  • Minimum residential building size
  • Distance from lot lines and/or a public street
  • Height requirements
  • Parking needs
  • Access to municipal services (sewage, electricity etc.)
  • Architectural design
  • Access for emergency services. 

Land Lease to Park Your Tiny Homes

Finding suitable land to park your tiny home is a critical step in realizing your tiny living dreams. Whether you’re looking for a permanent location or a temporary spot, there are several factors to consider when searching for the ideal piece of land. 

However, like any agreement, you’ll want to consider carefully your land lease. Some areas to consider include: 

  1. Utilities

Can you connect to essential utilities, such as water, sewage and electricity? How will the costs be shared? Are there any restrictions to your use of the utilities? 

  1. Maintenance costs

Clarify the costs associated with the land lease. In addition to the monthly rent, are there any other fees, such as property taxes, maintenance fees, or utility expenses? Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs to the property, such as landscaping and snow removal? Discuss any potential increases in rent over time and whether there are provisions for negotiating lease terms in the future.

  1. Your use of the land

When leasing land to park your tiny home, it’s essential to discuss and understand your permitted use of the property. Are there any restrictions or limitations on the activities you can engage in on the land? Are there specific rules regarding modifications to the land or the number of occupants allowed? It’s important to clarify these details to ensure that your intended use aligns with the terms of the land lease.

  1. Lease term and termination 

Review the lease duration and termination conditions carefully. Is the lease for a fixed term or a month-to-month basis? Understand the process for terminating the lease and any penalties or notice periods involved. It’s also important to consider if there are any options for lease renewal or extension if you plan to park your tiny home on the land for an extended period.

Beeksma Law: Answering all of your big questions 

At Beeksma Law, our commitment to exceptional client service, attention to detail, and in-depth knowledge of Ontario real estate laws set us apart. Contact Beeksma Law today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards making your home ownership dreams a reality.

Navigating Construction Liens in Ontario

blueprints and construction materials representing construction liens in Ontario

Disclaimer: This article on Navigating Construction Liens in Ontario is intended for the purposes of providing information only. It 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.

Construction liens are on the rise in 2023. As we mentioned in an earlier article, this is to be expected as litigation will increase during economic uncertainty. This also extends to construction liens. The good news is that you can protect yourself and your business by understanding:

  • what a lien is,
  • how it works, and
  • when to act before the situation gets out of control.

As with all business matters, protecting yourself comes down to two actions: understanding your rights and working with someone to help you both prevent and react to a lien.

What are construction liens?

A construction lien is a legal claim that one party registers against a property that is undergoing construction or renovation. It’s a form of security for payment that ensures that you pay the contractors and subcontractors for the work and the materials supplied. The lien gives the claimant the right to sell the property to recover the money owed to them.

The Ontario’s Construction Act governs construction liens. It sets out the rules and procedures for registering and enforcing liens in Ontario. The Act applies to all construction projects, whether they’re residential or commercial and whether they’re new builds or renovations.

How do construction liens work in Ontario

A construction lien is a powerful tool that can have serious consequences for both property owners and contractors. Here’s how it works:

  • A contractor or subcontractor who has provided services or materials on a construction project and has not been paid can register a lien against the property.
  • The claimant must give notice of the lien to the property owner and other interested parties, such as the mortgage lender.

The lien must be preserved (by registering it on title or providing a notice of lien) within a specific timeframe. That timeframe is now 60 days after the last day of work or supply of materials. It was previously 45 days, but this changed as of October 1, 2019. Once a party registers a lien, the property owner cannot sell or mortgage the property until the lien is resolved.

The claimant (the person who registered the lien) must “perfect” the lien within 150 days of the last day of work or supply of materials. Perfecting the lien means commencing legal action to enforce the lien.

Protecting yourself as a contractor

As a contractor or subcontractor, it’s important to protect yourself from non-payment.  

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to make sure that all contracts are in place before starting any work. The contract should clearly define the scope of the project, payment terms, deadlines and other relevant details, such as who owns any materials provided by the contractor.

Having an enforceable contract in place will help avoid disputes down the line if there is ever an issue with payment. It’s also important that you make all payments on time according to the schedule in your contract to minimize any potential delays or issues further down the line.  

It’s important that you keep careful records. If you find you’re having difficulty collecting payment from a client or are getting a run-around, you will be ready to register a lien against the property owner. You will also need to be organized when it comes to ensuring that you register within 60 days. The courts will hold to that deadline, so make sure you do everything necessary to ensure you register your lien in a timely manner.

Protecting yourself as a property owner

If someone registers a lien against your property, it is a serious issue and can have a major impact on your ability to sell or mortgage the property. Outstanding liens delay a project, or, even more seriously, financial institutions may even freeze loans or lines of credit. 

The only remedy that you, as a homeowner, have against a construction lien relates to the work done. Did the contractor complete the requested work? If the contractor did not complete the work, then you may have grounds to dispute the lien.  

It’s important to note that the standard is not whether or not the contractor completed the work to your standards. It is whether or not they did the work under the contract to the level of a “reasonable contractor”.

You can also include in your contract a “holdback”. This means that you can withhold a specified amount of funds from the contractor until the lien has expired or been released. It is important to consider this option as it may give you some protection against construction liens in the future. For example, if a subcontractor registers a lien for non-payment by the contractor, you can use the funds in your holdback to cover part or all of that subcontractor’s claim.

Of course, always make sure that you do your research and hire a reputable contractor before commencing any construction project.

Dealing with construction liens: Don’t wait!

As with most legal matters, the more proactive you are, the better. Whether you are disputing work done to your home or waiting for payment as a contractor, do not wait! Contact us right away to ensure we can resolve it in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Whether you are a contractor or property owner, understanding construction liens and how they work is important in order to protect yourself from potential financial losses. At Beeksma Law, we help our clients deal with construction lien matters and can provide you with the legal advice that you need. Contact us today for more information.  ?

Preventing Title Fraud In Real Estate Transactions

Disclaimer: This article on title fraud is intended for the purposes of providing information only 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.

Recently, a couple in Etobicoke came home from an extended business trip to a nasty surprise. Their home had been sold while they were away.  Two individuals posed as the owners, hired a real estate agent and were able to sell the home. 

Police discovered a similar situation in Toronto; however, in that instance the sale did not actually close. 

Whether it is in the news or anecdotally, we are hearing increasing reports of title fraud. Additionally, it seems that these criminals are becoming more sophisticated. Experts say they have fake identification that is almost indistinguishable from the real deal. 

In this article, we will talk about ways that you can protect yourself and your property. 

two men shaking hands - one of them is crossing his fingers behind his back because he is committing title fraud.

What is title fraud? 

Title fraud occurs when someone illegally obtains your title deed. They then use it to try to sell or mortgage your property without your permission. Fraudsters do this through forged documents, identity theft, or by taking advantage of those who may not understand the implications.

Who is most at risk? 

Cases of title fraud are more common when:

the owner is elderly, disabled, or vulnerable;

the owner has no family members to help manage the property; or

the owners’ estate is not properly set up.

Other potential targets of title fraud are those who own multiple properties, such as real-estate investors and landlords.

Typically, fraudulent homeowners will target houses with “clean title”, meaning that there are no mortgages or other liens on the property. If a house has a mortgage on title, for example, the bank or lender is involved and the sale becomes more complicated. The higher risk for the criminal may motivate them to look elsewhere.

They will often target homes that are vacant or newly purchased, as these have less likelihood of raising suspicion.

How can you prevent title fraud from happening to you or your family?

There are a couple of ways to prevent title fraud. (In a separate article, we will discuss protecting your relatives who might be elderly or otherwise vulnerable.)

Protect Your Identity

The first step is to protect your identity. Make sure that you keep all important documents such as drivers licenses, birth certificates and passports in a secure place. Additionally, if possible, sign up for an identity monitoring service that will detect any changes to your credit or personal information.

There are a few resources that can be helpful in protecting your identity below:

Purchase Title Insurance

The best way to combat the negative impact of title fraud is to purchase title insurance.

Title insurance is a type of insurance policy that protects the owner’s right to their property. If a title fraud issue arises, the title insurance covers all costs associated with rectifying it, including legal fees and other expenses.

Lenders typically require title insurance when you apply for a mortgage. However, even if it is not required, we strongly recommend that you purchase it. The relatively small payment for title insurance is far less than what you would incur if your property were stolen.

Have a mortgage or line of credit registered on title

Given that properties with clean title are generally more likely to be targeted, consider registering a mortgage or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) on your property. Even if it is for a small amount, it will make it more difficult for a criminal to sell or mortgage the home without your knowledge.

Expert Legal Advice With Beeksma Law

We know that your house is more than a house. It’s your home, and we understand how important it is to you to keep your home safe.

At Beeksma Law, we stay up to date on the market so that we can provide our clients with the best advice. Our real estate team can help ensure that you are protected from potential risks. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your property rights.

Do I need an estate litigation lawyer

Disclaimer: This article on choosing an estate litigation lawyer is intended for the purposes of providing information only 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.

Estate law is more than preparing a will or settling an estate after the death of a loved one. There is also the litigation side of estate law. This article is designed to help you understand if you need to pursue estate litigation and if so, what that would look like.

At Beeksma Law, we practice in a variety of areas, including estate litigation. We understand that disputes involving estates can be unquestionably difficult and emotional. We provide guidance to help our clients navigate these complicated cases, so they are able to make the best decisions for their families.

Firstly, a note for those planning their estate.

Preventing Estate Litigation

To begin with, if you are planning your estate,  it is important to take steps to prevent future disputes. This includes ensuring that your will is clear and properly drawn with the help of an estate lawyer, that all assets are properly allocated, and that executors and trustees know what is expected of them. With proper planning, you can be more confident that your executor will follow your wishes and avoid disputes.

What is estate litigation?

Simply put, estate litigation is when someone seeks legal action because of a dispute involving the management, control and distribution of property within an estate.

Let’s consider some examples of when someone may want to pursue estate litigation.

  • Challenging or contesting a will
  • Disputes related to how the estate executor carries out their duties
  • Disputes related to how much a beneficiary receives from an estate or how much the estate is worth
  • Issues related to how a power of attorney is being used
  • Disputes between co-executors
  • Disputes between co-attorneys of a power of attorney
  • Disagreements between beneficiaries
  • Disputes related to compensation for the estate trustee
  • Guardianship and incompetency disputes
  • Disputes that arise when there is no valid will

If you think you may need to pursue estate litigation, discuss this with an estate litigation lawyer immediately. In Ontario, estate litigation is time-sensitive. You must file a claim within two years after you knew or ought to have known that there was an issue. Generally, the legal standard is that the time limit begins when a “reasonable person” would know there was a problem.

Litigating an estate claim

Let’s very broadly outline how the process works if you need to litigate an estate claim. At any point, either side can file motions requesting that the judge make an order on a certain issue.

First, one party files a claim, along with any affidavits and evidence to support those claims. Then, the respondent responds to the claim, which includes their own affidavits and evidence. The applicant may or may not reply to the respondent.

Thereafter, each party cross-examine the other under oath about the materials, as well as any affidavits that they have filed.

Mediation is mandatory in Ontario. Mediation is where a neutral third party helps the parties come to an agreement. However, if this is unsuccessful, the case goes to trial, and both sides present their evidence and arguments to a judge. The judge will make a  decision and issue an order that the parties must abide by.

Resolving an estate dispute without going to trial

It’s important to acknowledge that estate disputes are highly emotionally charged. Beyond the legal issues involved, grief sometimes makes people act irrationally or want to right wrongs that have nothing to do with the facts being disputed. We understand that and therefore work hard to help our clients move forward in a healthy manner while protecting their legal rights.

Litigation is simply never the best option. Litigation is time-consuming, difficult and expensive. It does not allow you to move forward in handling the estate or putting the dispute behind you. In many instances, mediation or negotiation resolves any estate disputes.

Understanding Estate Litigation With Beeksma Law

At Beeksma Law,  we understand estate litigation and how to handle it in a respectful way. With extensive experience litigating estates, we are strategic advocates when it comes to protecting your legal rights.

Book a call with our team today for your complimentary consultation.