Whether you live in an urban or rural area, living in society means that we must accept normal inconveniences that derive from this environment. Article 976 of the Civil Code of Quebec stipulates:
“Neighbours shall suffer the normal neighbourhood annoyances that are not beyond the limit of tolerance they owe each other, according to the nature or location of their land or local usage.”
What is a normal annoyance, or normal disturbance?
According to these terms, what is considered normal varies from one place to the next, depending on the local environment. For example, the strong odour of manure can be considered normal in a rural area but would be unbearable in an urban area. Moreover, municipal by-laws, building regulations and even co-ownership agreements can frame and specify what is “normal”, but it can still vary from place to place. It is therefore important to consult and read these rules as they shed light on the proper codes of conduct and may very well answer most of your questions.
What is an abnormal inconvenience?
To be considered an annoyance according to the Law, the inconvenience must be continuous and/or repetitive. A tree root that is growing into the foundations of your neighbour’s house is a continuous inconvenience. A neighbour offering nocturnal percussion lessons from Monday to Friday is repetitive. However, a neighbour making noise in the middle of the night on a specific day because he has a plane to catch is neither continuous nor repetitive. In fact, it would most likely not be considered an annoyance according to the Law. The rule of thumb is always the same: the annoyance must prevent you from maximizing the enjoyment of your own home.
There are many types of neighbourhood annoyances
Neighbourhood annoyances, or nuisances, can take many forms. They can emanate from an encroachment on one’s territory or rights of way, can be dangers emanating from a neighbour’s goods or activities, or simply noises, odours, trees, views, etc.
Some disturbances are regulated by the Law: for instance, in a scenario where the roots or branches from a tree located on your neighbour’s land threaten to damage your property or prevent you from enjoying it, you could most definitely require said neighbour to either trim or cut them off. If your neighbour refuses to do so, you could ask the court to order the neighbour to cut them off. You have the same right to enforce such an action if your neighbour’s tree or its branches threaten to fall on your property and damage it.
The Civil Code of Quebec does not take a position on every type of annoyance, such as noise. Municipal by-laws generally specify the maximum decibel level for certain situations and they also specify the fines for the offenders. You should therefore consult the municipal by-laws prior to taking specific measures to fix a problem. Co-ownership agreements or building regulations may also have their specific guidelines for noise and these can be stricter than those of the municipality.
One essential thing to remember if you’re suffering from a neighbourhood annoyance is that after your dispute, your neighbour will most likely remain your neighbour. It is therefore often preferable to try preserving a decent relationship by settling your dispute amicably. It certainly isn’t always obvious, but discussing calmly and in a constructive manner with your neighbour is the best solution. Also, it is often possible to find an arrangement that pleases both parties. As the saying goes, “a bad settlement is always better than a good trial”. A two to three day trial costs on average more than $20 000. Indeed, the costs and delays generated by a trial, even a successful one, often end up overshadowing the winnings or the compromise that could have been made from the start. If negotiation fails, it would be wise to seriously consider the alternatives, such as mediation or BidSettle’s low cost automated procedures.BidSettle allows you to try and settle for a fraction of the price.Try sending a BidSettle demand letter.