Line Fences Act
Learn more about the dispute resolution procedure between the owners of adjoining properties with a fence on a boundary line.
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The Line Fences Act provides a dispute resolution procedure between the owners of adjoining properties in most of Ontario. Line fences are fences that mark the boundary between properties and are often referred to as boundary or division fences. The Act does not deal with disputes about fences that are not on a boundary line.
The arbitration of fencing disputes is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Ontario’s unorganized territories. Learn more about the procedure by contacting the Ministry or reviewing Regulation 716 of the Line Fences Act.
When the Act applies
The arbitration procedure only applies in two situations where the owners are unable to reach agreement:
- Where no fence currently exists at the boundary between the two properties, and one owner wants a new fence to be constructed to mark the boundary.
- Where a line fence already exists, and one owner believes that it needs to be reconstructed or repaired.
In such cases, an owner can ask that a municipality assign “fence-viewers” to resolve the dispute and issue a decision, also known as an “award”. A fence-viewer is:
- appointed by the municipality
- someone with broad knowledge of the community
Three fence-viewers are required to be present at a viewing, and they are only authorized to address one or both of the following issues:
- the apportionment of responsibility for the fencing work between the two adjoining owners
- the description of the fence that is to be constructed or reconstructed on the boundary line, including the materials to be used
After the viewing, the fence-viewers issue an award and allocate the costs of the proceeding between the two owners.
When the Act does not apply
The arbitration procedure is not applicable if one owner, on their own initiative, has constructed a new line fence or has reconstructed or repaired an entire existing line fence, and then wants to use the arbitration procedure to force the adjoining owner to pay part of the cost of the completed work.
The arbitration procedure only deals with disputes about fences. It does not determine the location of the boundary line between adjoining properties.
Boundary line disputes must be resolved by the owners themselves. Municipalities and their fence-viewers have no jurisdiction to deal with boundary issues.
As many municipal staff members and fence-viewers are aware, property owners involved in a boundary dispute often approach the municipality in the hope that the matter can be resolved without the need for them to obtain legal advice and a survey.
A municipal council has the authority to pass a by-law to exempt all or part of a municipality from the Act and, instead, pass a by-law assigning the costs of line-fences between owners. Contact your local municipality to find out if such a by-law exists.
Informal resolution of disputes
Although many property owners approach their local municipality about line fence matters, they are usually able to reach agreement with their neighbour without the need for a formal viewing.
An informal discussion between a municipal staff member or the adjoining owners can often help to resolve a dispute, especially where the owners are not on good terms. In addition, owners normally become more willing to resolve their dispute themselves once they are made aware that they will be required to pay for a viewing and its related costs.
An owner who is dissatisfied with an award has 15 days from the date of receiving a certified copy of the award to initiate an appeal.
An award is deemed to have been received seven days after being sent by registered mail. Only the original award of the fence-viewers can be appealed.
The fee to appeal in 2024 is $390.29 and is adjusted each year on January 1 with the Consumer Price Index of Ontario.
Depending on the circumstances, you may need to complete:
For more information, please contact your local municipality or the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
You can also contact the Ministry to request a copy of the Line Fences Act guide, which includes information on when the Act may apply and how to appeal an award.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: