With spring finally arriving and warmer weather around the corner, people are anxious to enjoy their balconies, backyards and gardens. But this can also lead to friction between neighbours. Are you a good neighbour? How about your neighbours? Here’s a short quiz to see if you know what it takes.
Being a Good Neighbour: What Does it Take?
But don’t look for a specific maximum volume in the Civil Code of Quebec. The Code simply mentions that you must accept the normal annoyances of living alongside neighbours. For specific limits, you have to look to municipal by-laws. For example, in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough of Montreal, the limit of what should be audible in a bedroom is 45 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night. For an idea of what that means, the ambient sound level in a library is about 40 decibels. People who violate the noise limits in that borough can face fines of $675 to $3000. So, it’s best to check the by-laws of your city or town before throwing your next party!
You may have to remove your garden shed if you knowingly built it in a way that goes – even slightly – onto your neighbour’s land. However, if you did this by mistake, and it causes no serious harm to your neighbour, the situation is different. The law provides that you may have to pay your neighbour compensation for the loss of use of this portion of land, or you may have to purchase the piece of land in question. It is up to the neighbour to choose between these two options.
You may be tempted to eat the delicious apple that just fell into your yard from the neighbour’s tree. But it’s best to wait a bit. If your neighbour asks for the fruit, you have to allow them to pick it up, or you must return it to them. However, the fruit’s all yours if they don’t want it!
Taking matters (or branches) into your own hands is not a good idea. If it looks like your neighbour’s tree might damage your house, you must discuss this with them. Your neighbour could cut the branches or have them removed by professionals. If they refuse, you could take the matter to court to seek a judgment ordering them to remove the branches. If the tree is in very poor condition, the court could even order the neighbour to cut down the tree and remove it.
It depends on where the fence is situated.
You have the right to surround your property with hedges, fences or walls. If everything is within the limits of your property, you must pay the entire cost. If you want to build a common fence on the dividing line, you and your neighbour will share ownership of the fence and responsibility for expenses. You must therefore reach an agreement with your neighbour about the type of fence, its height, and the materials to be used before anyone starts building the fence.
Can’t reach an agreement with your neighbour? Consider trying citizen mediation before taking the matter to court. For information, visit the websites of the Association des organismes de justice alternative du Québec (ASSOJAQ) (association of alternative justice organizations — French only) and Équijustice (network of restorative justice and citizen mediation). Both offer this service for free.