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Property maintenance: what are your legal responsibilities?

A boarded up home. Stock photo by Getty Images

Any proud homeowner likely makes an effort to keep their property clean, attractive and safe.

Even if you’re not so concerned, local bylaws likely still force you to take those steps.

Each municipality has its own regulations and codes, but there are many standard requirements for property owners. The specifics vary from place to place, but the following are some typical property maintenance laws sampled from across the country.

General aesthetics: bylaws often require you keep your house presentable. Vancouver’s Untidy Premises Bylaw says properties should be in a “neat and tidy condition in keeping with a reasonable standard of maintenance in the neighbourhood.”

Dangerous premises: aside from keeping your land tidy, you have to eliminate potential health or safety hazards around. Moncton, N.B.’s Dangerous or Unsightly Premises bylaw says you must remove ashes, automobile or other machine parts, trash and “junk” which could pose such threats.

Landscaping: you’re not required to keep a pristine lawn, but there are limits to how weedy and overgrown your lawn can be. Toronto requires property owners to cut grass and weeds taller than 20 centimetres (six inches). Many locales wage war on “noxious weeds” — ones likely to spread and create a nuisance to others or a risk to agriculture — and may require you to remove them altogether.

Snow and ice: homeowners should clear driveways and walkways of any snow and ice within a certain time frame. Charlottetown bylaws say you better be shoveling and salting within four hours after a snowfall stops or before 10 a.m., if it’s an overnight storm.

Drainage: Property must be properly graded to allow water drainage and landowners can’t block or interfere existing drainage systems. Saskatoon also says your roof drainage can’t be directed onto public walkways or adjacent properties.

Address signage: your house must be identifiable by street number, and even the signage dimensions could be regulated by law. Whitehorse demands address signs affixed either on the building or on a freestanding sign. In either case, the sign can be no bigger than 0.25 square metres.

Graffitti: property owners can be penalized for applying graffiti or failing to remove it. Calgary imposes a $150 fine for failing to remove, cover, or somehow block graffiti from view (and it’ll cost you $5,000 if you apply it yourself).

As we said, that’s just a sampling. Many more bylaws exist, that could cover pesticides, pools, fencing, lighting, parking and so on. Be sure to check your local laws and avoid frustrating fines.

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