Thursday, October 23, 2008

Permits proposed to curb renovation hassles

Permits proposed to curb renovation hassles
Helaine Becker came home from a trip a few years ago to find a neighbour doing a major renovation had built a construction fence down the middle of her driveway.

"They had the fence for nine months. They damaged our car, they flooded our basement and we never did receive any compensation for the damage," Becker said in an interview at City Hall.

Her family would have had to take the neighbours to court, she said; that would have been time-consuming, costly and stressful.

Toronto's licensing and standards committee decided yesterday that a permit system is needed to help homeowners like Becker who live next door to problem renovations.

Frequently, homeowners have to use their neighbours' property temporarily to put up scaffolding or move equipment when doing major excavation or construction.

A patchwork of rules across the city govern the neighbour's right to access, but most say your neighbour has the right to temporary use of your property if there's no other way to do the work.

Usually, neighbours work out an agreement. But when that doesn't happen, says the committee, the homeowner who is doing the work should have to get a permit and state how long the project will take before using the neighbour's property.

Under the proposal – which must still be approved by city council – the affected neighbour would get a chance to comment and city staff would inspect the property. The homeowner doing the work would have to promise to repair any damage done to the other property and post a deposit.

If the work isn't done by the deadline in the permit, or repairs aren't carried out in a timely way, the city could move in and do the repairs, keeping the deposit and charging any excess costs to the offending homeowner's property tax bill.

City staff said similar bylaws are already in place in Ottawa and Windsor. Only a handful of permits are issued each year because neighbours usually work things out on their own.

They estimated that no more than 100 permits a year would be needed in Toronto

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