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Development on Private Roads

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Thinking of buying a property on a private road? What does it mean?

Within smaller municipalities in more remote areas of Ontario, many properties are accessed by private roads. Private roads are owned and maintained by one or more land owner and used to access private property. Roads owned by a municipality are referred to as municipally maintained roads, or public roads. Public roads are maintained to a higher standard and are used by the public at large. Private roads are maintained at the standard that is feasible for the owner or owners who live on that road.

Before buying a property, it is important to investigate whether the property you are interested in is on a private road and what implications may be involved. This post will highlight the main differences between living on a private road and a municipally maintained road.

What are the differences?

The three main differences between owning a property that fronts onto a private road versus a property that fronts onto a municipally maintained road include:

  1. Service Delivery

Services are often limited on private roads. Garbage and recycling collection and school transportation services are traditionally offered at the nearest intersection to a municipally owned road.

  1. Maintenance

All road work and maintenance is the responsibility of the private road owners. Unlike public roads that are cared for by the municipality through taxes, private roads are maintained at the expense of the residents or group of residents who live on and use that road.

  1. Liability

Owners of properties who front onto a private road should be aware that the local municipality will not assume any liability for the lack of an appropriate form of public road access, nor assume such private roads or expend monies in relation to any form of improvements to or maintenance of the same. If you are the owner of a property on a private road it is your (and other property owners on that same private road) responsibility to ensure that it is maintained and clear of obstruction.

Can a private road become a public road?

A municipality may assume a private road provided the road meets certain minimum standards. The assumption of any road is a municipal decision. However, municipalities generally avoid road assumption since additional tax dollars would be required for road maintenance. Road assumption also involves a detailed process which includes submitting a petition to the municipality requesting assumption of the roadway. The petition must contain the signatures of 100% of the property owners having frontage on the road to be assumed. The following documentation must also be presented to the municipality:

a)      a reference plan prepared by an Ontario Land Surveyor documenting the lands affected by the proposed assumption;

b)      original deeds and certification of title for the lands in question prepared by a lawyer; and

c)      a plan and profile drawing prepared by a Licensed Professional Engineer to document the existing conditions along the road demonstrating compliance with the municipality’s road standards.

Summary

There are thousands of private roads in rural Ontario, and if you are thinking of buying a property on one it is valuable to understand what that means. Private roads provide access to some of the most remote and beautifully untouched land in the Province. However, the trade-off  for such access is the lack of assurance of some municipal services.

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