When you live in Toronto, mutual driveways are part of many property owners’ daily lives. A mutual driveway is any sort of driveway that is shared between two neighbours, usually to allow the passage of vehicles or pedestrians. If you were to actually ask a buyer, or even a seller, who owns the mutual driveway, they probably wouldn’t know the answer.
And this is because of something called easements. The driveways are usually going to be split right down the middle in terms of actual ownership, but will have a legal means of granting right of way to the neighbour.
An easement has two parties to it: the dominant tenement and the servient tenement. The dominant tenement is the property that is enjoying the benefit of using the others’ property, and the servient tenement is the property ceding partial use of the property. Usually each party will be both a dominant and servient tenement when it comes to mutual driveways.
Easements are governed by common law and are usually registered in the deed for your home. You’ll usually find them marked on the survey. Your agent should be able to assess the size of the mutual driveway.
The real question, especially in a city like Toronto, is who is legally obliged to shovel the snow in the driveway? And who has the right to legally park there?
There is a long and complicated answer to the shovelling question, but in short, it comes down to the fact that neither party is legally responsible for clearing the snow in the driveway as it is not required to be cleared under municipal law. You can choose to clear the snow on your portion of the driveway or your neighbours portion of the driveway as long as you don’t do any damage to the others’ property while doing so.
This basically means that it comes down to who needs to get out of the driveway more, which is a frustrating answer to hear, but is about as clear an answer as you are going to get. This would also apply in terms of junk that is left in the driveway. It is fine for a neighbour to do that to their part of the driveway, but it can’t limit the other person’s access.
The parking question is another important one, as it dictates a lot of the logistics within a household. The right of use is shared, which means that an agreement must be reached between the two households as to how the use of the driveway will be split up if no one can get to the back with their car. Some neighbours split it up by week or month or agree not to use it at all. This is never a legally binding agreement and is impossible to enforce, so it really just comes down to the integrity each neighbour possesses.
A mutual driveway can greatly complicate the relationship with your neighbour so it is best to always do your fair share, even if it isn’t required.
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