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Home Maintenance Safety

Being “Home” invokes images of shelter, comfort, security, safety, and refuge from the world around us.

The legal maxim “A man’s home is his castle” has existed in the Common Law for more than 500 years, since a ruling of Chief Justice John Fineux of the Court of King’s Bench in 1505. It was intended to mean that a person has dominion over their own abode, can protect it, and can engage there in behaviours that might not otherwise be permissible in a public place. Be cautious though. In the modern world, the maxim does not extend to legal protection for all activities undertaken in the home or in the backyard.

Homeowners and renters alike should be cognizant of the legal and safety hazards that exist in the occupation of their homes. When we undertake work on our homes and gardens or when we invite others onto our property we often expose ourselves to liabilities. Failing to properly maintain our property can also expose us legally. It is, therefore, important to safeguard against injury to ourselves and others and to take every reasonable precaution in the upkeep of our homes.

Home renovations enhance the look and enjoyment of our properties. Be aware of municipal by-laws such as set-backs, building permits and legislated safety requirements before undertaking any major project. Violations can result in significant penalties. If hiring others to perform work on your property, make sure they have adequate WSIB coverage should one of the workers become injured. Be aware of and make sure you’re in compliance with all by-laws concerning lawn maintenance, noxious weeds or safety fencing around a pool.

Call before you dig. Many utilities like gas, hydro, telephone and cable companies may have equipment underground that could cause disruption in services to you and your neighbours, or even catastrophic explosions, if you dig into and damage a gas line, for example. Be vigilant too that a private contractor may have run gas lines to a pool or electricity to a shed that the locating services might not know enough to look for. Check for easements. A shed built on a hydro easement may store more trouble than you’re anticipating.

Make sure about property lines before erecting a fence or a structure that could encroach on your neighbour’s land. It’s far more expensive to dig up and remove the footings of that brand new garage you just built than it is to survey the lot line first. Even an encroachment of an inch or two could have devastating financial implications if you trespass on neighbouring land.

Maintain your property. While your apparently healthy tree falling on your neighbour’s house in a windstorm may be something the neighbour claims on their own insurance, a visibly unhealthy or damaged tree that you have failed to remove or restore may result in a negligence claim against you, if it falls and causes damage to that same neighbour or their home.

A slip and fall on your front porch by a delivery person or some other guest can be expensive. Shovel your walks, maintain staircases, ensure handrails are secure and adequate. Look for hazards and eliminate them.

Once your due diligence is done, relax, enjoy your castle and don’t forget to feed the alligators in the moat!

Contact Kevin Egan, Personal Injury Lawyer at McKenzie Lake Lawyers