Sometimes access to a neighbour’s land is necessary in order to repair or make additions to your property. It may be for something as simple as standing on the neighbour’s land to paint your building, or it may be as high impact as bringing heavy equipment across the neighbour’s land or the excavation of a shared walkway. If the neighbour consents to your access there is no issue. However, sometimes the neighbour does not consent and threatens that setting foot on their property will be considered a trespass. That is where municipal “right of entry” bylaws can be helpful.

In Ontario, the Municipal Act[1] authorizes municipalities to pass bylaws that “authorize the owner or occupant of land to enter adjoining land, at any reasonable time, for the purpose of making repairs or alterations to any building, fence or other structures on the land of the owner or occupant...” subject to certain conditions and limitations. Some municipalities have passed such a bylaw, others have not. In municipalities where no such bylaw has been passed, this section will be of no help to a property owner who has been denied access to a neighbour’s land and you may be out of luck.

Hopefully your dispute arises in a municipality where a “right of entry” bylaw has been passed. The municipalities that have opted to implement a bylaw pursuant this section have taken varying approaches. Most municipalities require the person seeking access to request a “right of entry” permit from the municipality, but some do not (e.g. Hamilton). Some require security deposits in the event the neighbour’s property is damaged (e.g. Ottawa), and others distinguish between “low impact” and “high impact” work and have different permit requirements for each (e.g. Toronto) among many other important differences.

Obtaining authorization to enter onto a neighbour’s land (or protecting a property owner’s rights when a neighbour is seeking such a permit) is often a straightforward matter. However, sometimes it is not and legal assistance may be required.