Zero Property Lines - Are You Aware?

Monday, November 30, 2020   /   by Sergey Korostensky

Zero Property Lines - Are You Aware?

Builders choose Zero-Property Line as a new trend. 

It's promoted as an emerging option in master-planned communities across Calgary. 

It involves building against one side of the lot, setting up a five-foot separation between the home and neighbour (versa four foot between the house and property line which makes a minimum of eight foot between homes) 

Let's try to understand is it a really so good option? 

Or this will just allow builders to construct more homes on the same parcel of land, and city will now be able to collect more taxes?

Remember, when buying Real Estate - you buying Land and attachment to it (Home). You need to decide for yourself - do you need more Home or more Land?

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Understanding a Zero-Lot-Line House

Zero-lot-line houses are built very close to their boundary lines. Because there is virtually no space left over they are called "zero lot." With a zero-lot-line house, the buyer only purchase a lot large enough to hold the house. 

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Such a home confers savings to purchasers who cannot afford a larger lot or do not feel they need large one to justify the expense. 

A zero lot line property is a property where bylaws allow for a building’s construction right up to the lot line. A requirement exists that the building’s construction occurs completely on the land in question. Essentially, no setbacks create space between the building and the neighbouring property. As described below, this sets up legal implications for both property owners (the property with the building and the property next to it). Usually, a setback exists on the other side of the property.

Zero-Lot-Line House Advantages

  • A zero lot line usually allows someone to use more of the property for building on. This means often translates into a low cost for the property as compared to a similar size building with setbacks on both sides.
  • Zero-lot-line uses a smaller yard area, therefore, it is easy to maintain the yard area
  • In Zero-lot-line house, you only pay for the space large enough to hold your house. Smaller lots are more affordable; you don’t have to spend money buying a large area you don’t need.

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Disadvantages To Properties With No Setbacks

With advantages, we often see corresponding disadvantages. In this case, several disadvantages exist for these types of properties. However, these disadvantages do not inherently make these properties good or bad to own. 

For example, it often means that the home or building has:

  • Less privacy
  • More noise transmission from neighbouring properties due to proximity; Although there are no shared walls and windows are installed in walls away from the edges of the property line, if you have a noise neighbour there is nowhere to go.
  • A different resale value to a traditional property
  • Strangers entering onto your property. Access to walls direct on property line: Although planning and design of the structure are done early, sometimes they are not fully implemented. You also can’t stop a neighbour from building a lean wall against one of your outside walls.
  • Tightly packed buildings: Building your home near the property line will lead to tightly packed building walls especially in urban areas where there is a lot of congestion.
  • Zero-lot-line house have little or no buffer zone in the surrounding area and this can create a lot of challenges to you and also to your neighbours who are used to having a large buffer area.
  • Design restrictions: You can’t install windows, water taps, and air vents on the wall next to the edge of your home, although this helps in minimizing noise from neighbour’s property.
  • Relationship with the neighbour: If you build your Zero-lot-line home next a traditional lot, you may face a lot of challenges in the landscape and maintenance of the area. Your relationship with your neighbour determines how peaceful you will be living in the area.
  • Disputes: Lack of space between the houses may lead to disputes with neighbours since you end up sharing walls with them. You also have to make a lot of compromises when living in the area.
  • Small family only: The zero-lot-line houses are suitable for a smaller family and older people.

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Related Encumbrances On Land Title

Most often, an encumbrance or registration on the title to both the subject property and the neighbouring property exists. This registration most often shows up as an “easement”. Occasionally people register the encumbrance as a caveat. Ask your real estate agent about it, if you are not sure if a property you look to buy has no setback. Visually, the determination is often easy. However, your real estate agent needs to download the title to the property to see if the related encumbrance exists on title. Once a contract is unconditional, the buyer under the contract is contractually bound to purchase. Essentially, a buyer needs to know about this situation before they legally commit to purchase.

Effect Of Zero Lot Lines Related Registrations On Title

As stated above, most zero lot line properties include an easement related to the neighbouring property. Since the encumbrance is on title to the property, a buyer is deemed to know about it when they purchase the property. The registration is there for the world to see. A buyer’s obligation involved completing due diligence to ensure the property is right for them. The easement allows the owner of the property with the building extending right to the lot line to do several things they normally could not do. For example, the easement allows the owner of the property with the building to:

  • Enter onto the neighbouring property;
  • Use the neighbouring property to make repairs to the building;
  • Enter onto the neighbouring property for regular maintenance of the building;
  • Restricts the ability to build fences; and lastly
  • Create a situation where one party owes damages to not following the permissions and /or obligations.

What If There Is No Registration?

As frustrating as an encumbrance on title allowing a stranger to access your property is, often more problems arise when none exists. 

A lack of encumbrance means no rules set out each party’s rights and obligations. Therefore, if a person needs to access the neighbouring property to maintain or fix their own property, no legal right allows for that. 

Unfortunately, this often leads to serious disputes as between neighbours.

Glossary:

Real estate is a class of "real property" that includes land and anything permanently attached to it, whether natural or man-made.