Q I recently installed a pool and jacuzzi in my backyard and afterwards I placed a two-sided pagoda over the jacuzzi so I could use it in the winter. My neighbour had a city inspector to come in to review some work they had done and the inspector noted the structure I had constructed. Lo and behold there was a knock on my door and the inspector requested whether I had obtained city permission to build the structure which is literally less than six inches from the fence and property line. My neighbour doesn’t have an issue with it but the inspector is coming back to measure and discuss the matter. What should I do?
A Your situation is quite common and stems from city bylaws about set backs of buildings from the property line. The first issue is to determine if the structure qualifies as a building under the city codes. If it is open on two sides it may not fall within the definition of a building and therefore is not caught by the municipal standards.
Second, municipalities often have size restrictions under which your building is not limited by lot set back restrictions. In this case, I understand that 100 square feet is the limit over which you need to obtain permission. Your structure of eight feet by 12 feet which is 96 square feet. So you may be able to squeak under the by-laws due to the size of the structure.
If it is found that the structure is a building and it is over the lot line limit set by the municipality you should have applied for and obtained a city variance. It’s now after the fact and so what could happen?
• You could be subject to a fine, and/or;
• You may be required to file for a zoning variance with what in Toronto is known as the Committee of Adjustments, or;
• You may be forced to remove the structure.
Although most city inspectors are not out to “get you,” they are mandated to uphold the municipality’s by-laws. Even if your neighbour doesn’t mind it is the city who will make the final determination.
Jeffrey D. Cowan is with Cowan & Taylor, Barristers & Solicitors. The info in this article should not be relied upon as legal advice.