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Real estate law column by Bob Aaron

New home owners dig into their legal rights and obligations about backyard burial

Just when I thought I had heard every possible real estate problem, a client showed up with a question that is so novel that the answer doesn’t appear in any court cases or real estate text books.

“Winston” and his wife recently bought a midtown house with plans to demolish and rebuild it. They were in the process of obtaining permits from the City of Toronto when a neighbour came over to talk to them and warned that the house had a “bad history.”

Dance studio drove woman out of condo into court

One of the most common complaints from condominium residents is noise coming from neighbouring units. In the last 40 years, more than 100 condominium noise cases have gone to trial in Ontario courts.

The latest of these involves an application by Elizabeth Dyke against Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corporation 972 to require the condominium to enforce its noise bylaws. The building is a 349-unit high-rise on Wellesley St. E. near Yonge St.

Some title insurance is better than others

In the world of real estate, it’s not very well known that title insurance policies vary significantly from one company to another.

When it comes to basic title protection, though, policy coverage among insurers is very similar. Title insurance typically protects home buyers against loss from risks which are listed in the policy, including another person having an ownership interest in the property, outstanding liens, construction without a permit, fraudulent title dealing, breach of zoning bylaws and other circumstances which could result in loss.

Beware sending a real estate deal off the rails

An interesting decision from Toronto’s small claims court last December provides a useful lesson on the obligations of buyers, sellers and lawyers when a real estate transaction starts to go off the rails.

In his decision, Justice M. Donald Godfrey wrote that the case came to court because the parties and their lawyers were unable to work out a “reasonable compromise” on the closing of a transaction on Mould Ave., in Toronto.

Problems with land titles just got clearer


A decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in February may have settled the thorny question of whether or not courts have the authority to correct erroneous descriptions of properties in the land registration system.

The origin of the dispute dates back to 1985, when Veikko Kivikangas subdivided a parcel of waterfront land he owned in the Sudbury area into three lots.

Should murder or suicide be disclosed?

Shortly after Sidney and his wife bought their Toronto home last fall, a number of their new neighbours told them that there had been a suicide there just prior to their purchase.

The neighbours knew in great detail that the event occurred in the basement washroom, and was soon followed by a crime scene-like display of 10 police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance.

Sidney emailed me to report that the seller told them that her brother, the original owner, died of a heart attack.

The property was inherited by the owner’s sister, who sold the house right afterward.

Bizarre form warns against signing Seller Property Information Statement

In the wake of a flood of court cases involving the Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS) and its counterparts across Canada, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has introduced a strange new form designed to warn sellers about signing the SPIS.
 Property disclosure forms consist of a complex series of questions that agents sometimes ask sellers to complete. Some agents believe — incorrectly — that the form shields them from liability for undisclosed defects in the house.

Condo board pays price for power play

Five former board members of a London, Ont., condominium corporation have been personally ordered to pay costs totalling $36,300 as a result of two related lawsuits, after the old board ignored the wishes of a majority of unit owners. The old board had refused to recognize the results of a members’ meeting in which a new board was elected.

Real estate lawyers do not "waste" client's money

Last week I received an email from a Star reader who had just bought a $588,000 home in Scarborough and wanted to know if I could refer him to a real estate lawyer “with the lowest fee in the business.”

Homeownership is not always about crunching numbers

Sometimes, even the experts get it wrong, or maybe not entirely right. In her new book, Money Rules, financial guru Gail Vaz Oxlade says that buying a home is not for everyone.

Her No. 1 rule: Renting is not a waste of money. "Home ownership can be a big ol' pain in the arse," she writes. "There are moments of joy and pride that come with home ownership, but it's not for everyone." So far so good.

Vaz Oxlade then sets out a list of people who should not own a home. In her world view, they are those people who:


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