Check the Noise Level Before You Purchase a Home

Bob Aaron in Legal, Home Buying

Next month marks the official beginning of summer, the
season when many city folk retreat to their cottages to de-stress and
to absorb some much-needed peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it doesn't
always turn out that way.

Earlier this month, I wrote about
access roads in cottage country. Under Ontario law, if a property is
landlocked with no deeded rights to get to the nearest public road, the
owner of the property is entitled to travel to it over an access road
on someone else's land.

That column prompted a lengthy email
from Stephen Harvey, of Sault Ste. Marie, about problems he is having
with the access road to his cottage.

"I am the owner of a
couple of hundred acres in God's country and have a cottage on a quiet
lake,'' Harvey wrote. "A road traverses the property and has been the
subject of great contention since we bought the property 10 years ago."

The road, Harvey told me, is recognized as an "access road" under
Ontario's Road Access Act. None of the seven neighbouring cottagers has
a registered right of way to get to their properties. After
considerable discussion, the cottagers agreed on the location and
dimensions of the access road and hired a land surveyor to document it.

The problem, Harvey told me, is with the road's use. All seven
families have agreed that the purpose of the road is to drive to and
from the cottages by car or truck, or to walk along the road, as long
as nothing is disturbed and no hunting takes place.

A couple of
the cottagers have all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), which like other
recreational vehicles, can be used as tools to get somewhere or do
something, or they can be used for riding for fun.

wrote, "For some users, the faster they can go the more fun they are.
They are also quite noisy and they can be quite dangerous.

have asked that people not use ATVs on the road," Harvey says. "The OPP
have said they are virtually powerless to do anything because the Road
Access Act says that access roads can be used by motor vehicles and an
ATV is a motor vehicle."

Neither the Off -Road Vehicles Act nor
the Road Access Act offers Harvey and his neighbours the tranquility
they wanted by locating their summer homes in the middle of nowhere.

dwellers are not alone in their quest for peace and quiet. I continue
to receive emails from local readers who complain about noisy
neighbours and noisy neighbourhoods – everything from activities in
adjoining residential units, to environmental noise or noise pollution
from things like streetcars, nightclubs, the Toronto Grand Prix, CNE
Air Show, Caribana, Wakestock and the airplanes using the Pearson and
City Centre airports.

Perhaps Canada needs something like
Britain's Crime and Disorder Act, 1998. The legislation was designed to
combat graffiti, abusive language, excessive noise, littering,
drunkenness, racial abuse, prostitution and drug dealing – among other
social problems.

Under the Act, an "ASBO" – anti-social
behaviour order – can be issued to deter or prevent behaviour that
causes harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people.

in December 2005, a local council in Paisley, Scotland, threatened to
issue an ASBO against 13-year old Andrew Caulfield if he didn't stop
practising the bagpipes outside his home.

There is no similar law
on this side of the pond. The lesson of today's column is before you
buy a home or cottage, make sure you are comfortable with the noise
level of the surrounding area.

Bob Aaron is a sole practitioner at the law firm of Aaron &
Aaron in Toronto.  Bob specializes in the areas of real estate,
corporate and commercial law, estates and wills and landlord/tenant
law. His
Title Page column appears Saturdays in The Toronto Star and weekly on Move Smartly.  E-mail

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