When acting for a purchaser of a house, a lawyer must keep in mind the need for investigating title to properties adjacent to the property being purchased. There are two main reasons for this: 1) Planning Act (Ontario) compliance; and 2) easements.
The Planning Act (Ontario) is provincial legislation that contains provisions regulating the transfer of land. For example, the Act can restrict the transfer of one property where the transferor also owns the adjoining property. In order to satisfy the purchaser that the provisions of the Act have been complied with, it may be necessary for a lawyer to search title to the property being purchased as well as every other property that shares a boundary with that property. Investigating the ownership of these neighbouring properties can take time and cost money, but can be essential steps to ensuring good and marketable title for the purchaser.
The other reason to search title to a neighbouring property is to confirm the existence and description of easements. Generally, an easement is a right of one land owner to enter upon the lands of another owner. In Toronto, there are many houses that share a common driveway between two neighbours. Each neighbour would own the land upon which their respective house sits, with the property boundary running through the middle of the driveway. In these cases, each owner’s lands alone would be too narrow to allow a car or other vehicle to pass through. However, when the lands of both neighbours are combined, the driveway is wide enough for use. Each neighbour enjoys an easement over the lands of the other neighbour, something that is often referred to as a “mutual” easement. These easement rights (and burdens) should be reflected in the legal title to both properties, and so when searching title, a lawyer must bear this in mind.