A few years ago, I moved into a brand new house here in Whitby. One of the reasons for the move was to find a good neighbourhood where there were plenty of children. We struck the motherlode. Between my house, my neighbours to the left, and the 2 houses behind us, there were 11 children.
While we never actually spoke about it, no one put up a fence. We simply cut the grass to where we thought our lot ended plus one more foot. It was like a park back there. Children's games crossed over from our yard to the next without impediment. To the kids, the entire area was their back yard. Touch football, whiffle ball, snow forts and snow men all shared the communal yard.Even the adults took advantage of the open space. We had block barbeques and fireworks. One year, somehow I was put in charge of lighting the fireworks and I still have nightmares of the "incident". All my neighbours were lined up on their lawn chairs, all comfortably wrapped in blankets and sweaters. The children were huddled on the ground in anticipation. I had a wheelbarrow full of dirt to stick the fireworks in before lighting. Well, it seems some of the bigger fireworks are quite powerful and one fell over and aimed itself toward the crowd. In a matter of seconds, the rockets were raining on them at about the 6 foot level, the crowd was diving for cover and there were screams of terror as the fireballs went over their heads. Fortunately, no one actually got hit but it was the talk of every gathering after that and I was never asked to light the fireworks again.
All good things must come to an end. One of the neighbours decided to get a pool; another a dog. Fences were now a must. A fence builder was called, prices obtained and we all shared in the cost of the fences that defined our lots. It was simple.However, it is not always like that. Some people can't agree on what day it is let alone what kind of fence to put up, who should do it, and what it should cost. It is a delicate subject that requires negotiation and sometimes, compromise. I get calls about this every few months. While there is legislation in Ontario that can require a homeowner to contribute to the cost of a party fence, it is limited to the least expensive fence which is likely a 3 foot high chain link. This is not the fence of choice these days as most people want privacy as well as property definition. The municipality will appoint a "fence-viewer" to determine where the fence should go if asked.
The best advice I can give you is talk to your neighbour and keep talking until something is agreeable to you both. The courts and lawyers are available but are expensive and often result in a permanent falling out with the neighbour, no matter what the outcome. If worst comes to worst, simply build your fence entirely on your property and never mention it again. Your stress level will go down and you will live longer.Brian McMurter is a life-long Durham resident who practices real estate and wills & estate law in Whitby. His website is www.mcmurter.com .