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Major problem with new land

 
Posts: 30
Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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Hi,
My wife and I bought a piece of land with the idea to turn it into a homestead.
We found out today we are not allowed to do any modifications to the land such as building structures and if we want to cut any trees, we need a permit for every tree!
We have well over 700 trees, we wanted to clear an area and plant other trees, and we are not allowed to do this.
Is this normal? Should we sell it and buy somewhere else? We are furious over being told this, after everything we had to do to buy the land.
 
pollinator
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that’s definitely something that you should have been told of earlier. i’m not familiar with real estate law in canada, but surely limitations like that should be made clear before the sale goes through.
 
Donald Smith
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Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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greg mosser wrote:that’s definitely something that you should have been told of earlier. i’m not familiar with real estate law in canada, but surely limitations like that should be made clear before the sale goes through.



We were told by the realtor that we were able to cut up to 30% of forest and we had the right to build a driveway on our land.
We’re going to contact him and ask what’s going on because had we known before we would have never bought it.
We don’t know what to do, we might be screwed.
 
master pollinator
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That's terrible. Your lawyer should have drawn your attention to these restrictions while drawing up the papers.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1663
Location: Victoria BC
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If you had a realtor, and these are restrictions on the specific parcel, yes, should have been brought up following the title search. If no realtor, that's all on the buyer..

Zoning and local bylaws were not in the scope of the realtors job when I bought.. and can be a big deal. Understanding the likelihood of that stuff actually getting enforced is a whole nother thing,..


Sounds excessively restrictive to me; if practical to sell and move on, that's what I would do. Frustrating.
 
master steward
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Like Greg said I too know nothing about real estate laws in Canada.

Usually, items like that are why in the US most real estate transactions go through a title company or a lawyer.

My suggestion would be to contact a real estate attorney.  Usually, they do not charge for a consultation or if they do charge they will tell you upfront.

You will need to take all your paperwork including sales contracts, deeds, and any proof of what you were told by both the realtor or the authority that told you about the permits needed.
 
D Nikolls
pollinator
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Donald Smith wrote:

greg mosser wrote:that’s definitely something that you should have been told of earlier. i’m not familiar with real estate law in canada, but surely limitations like that should be made clear before the sale goes through.



We were told by the realtor that we were able to cut up to 30% of forest and we had the right to build a driveway on our land.
We’re going to contact him and ask what’s going on because had we known before we would have never bought it.
We don’t know what to do, we might be screwed.



Hopefully he told you that in writing!

If not.. a carefully worded email might get him to put it in writing now. Might be useful.
 
Donald Smith
Posts: 30
Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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In Quebec, we use notaries when finalizing a purchase, and we asked at the time if there were restrictions and he told us permits are needed only to build, but to ignore them because no one follows rules here anyway.
We had always planned to get a building permit for the house we want to build but we were never informed by anyone we needed a permit for each tree cut. We never though to ask because the notion is so ridiculous it just didn’t cross our minds. I guess living here we should have known better, we have the worse bureaucracy in the entire world.
We really like the land and want to keep it, but we bought it planning on making a few changes.

 
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sounds like you might now need a lawyer to deal with the realtor who it sounds like misled you.
but you may be in luck, it seems real estate market is hotter than its been in long time, you might just be able to turn it over real quick and get your $$$$$ back.
ive learned the hard way in life to check things out, I had a realtor tell me a bunch of stories but fortunately I put in writing on the contract before I signed it that if certain conditions are not such and such, contract to be null and void.
for me it had to do with internet availability and if anyone else had any type of rights on the property. turned out the property owner had given permission for an adjoining property owner to build driveway across property I was wanting to buy in any fashion they desire.
 
pollinator
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Our land is similar. Our realtor also told us a bunch of bullshit about it. Some of the complications we were aware of, some not until the notary pointed something out in the paperwork we were signing. At that point we'd already put a lot of effort into making the sale work, I was in the middle of my busy season at work, and my husband was neck deep in final exams. We had no time or energy left, so we just went ahead with the purchase and decided to figure it out later. We ended up building a tiny house with no permit.

I think what you do now depends on your long term plans for the property. Is this an investment that you may want to sell later? Do you want to pass it along to kids? Are you settling for life?

Is there something about this property that makes it worth hanging onto? For us, we fell in love with the land and we really couldn't afford anything else anyway.

You mention you were told people in your area don't pay attention to permits. My area is similar. Look into this more. Once my husband finished his engineering degree and we moved back to the area and onto our land, we were able to get a better feel for things. My husband now quite often deals with situations at work where people are doing something without a permit that the building inspectors find out about. Or situations where someone built without a permit years ago and now needs or wants something done more officially for various reasons.  Or they built without a permit years ago and now their roof collapsed in a fifty year snowfall. There are people doing officially unsanctioned stuff all the time. There are ways of making it work if needed. It might not be cheap or pleasant. On the other hand, my husband has found that a lot of the time a messy situation will prompt a lot of quick, creative, and very accommodating thinking so the official can get it off their desk and stop thinking about it.

Some of the complications on our property involve rights of way held by various entities. This is the realtor bullshit part. One of the ROWs is held by a company. There is a process we could go through to have areas of the property removed from the ROW in order to get permits for building. We couldn't afford this at the time we needed to build, and we weren't getting a building permit anyway so we didn't pursue it. There may be something similar that applies to your property, though.

A complication we were aware of is that there is no legal access to the property. We cross a corner of land belonging to another company to get to ours. When I contacted the land manager about it, they had very little interest in granting us legal use of the road crossing their property. I told them we were using it anyway and that our only other option was to build a bridge, which we weren't going to do. They waffled around a bit and left the issue open. I've dealt with them a few times since then and the access has never come up again. They don't want to put anything in writing, so it's easier to turn a blind eye.

The first company I mentioned above is also quite happy to turn a blind eye when it's easier to do so. The usual process with their company is to get a field worker to confirm your plans won't impact anything they'd ever need to do on the ROW. Then you talk to the lands department to get the legal stuff figured out. We never dealt with the legal part, but we had a couple of the field guys up here to take a look at what we were doing. They didn't blink at seeing a half finished house where they were expecting nothing. Stuff like this happens all the time. They confirmed that what we were doing was fine as far as they were concerned, and we left it at that. They fly their helicopter over a couple times a year to check on infrastructure nearby, so they're well aware we're here, building, planting, and no one has contacted us about anything. According to the lands department located four hours away, we're supposed to get a permit for even a raised garden bed. In practice, the guys on the ground here don't care.

So I guess I'm saying if you decide you're okay with some grey areas and risk, the land might be just fine. If there's no reason to stick with this land in particular and you're not so fond of grey, maybe not.

 
Donald Smith
Posts: 30
Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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The reason we want to keep the land is because it’s so hard to find any land at the price we wanted, especially waterfront. We plan to retire on it someday, but for the meantime we wanted to work on it plant trees we enjoy and visit it from time to time.
We have decided to get a permit to cut a few trees and just cut what we want and if they bother us, we will show them the permit that allows us to cut certain trees. There’s no way they will be able to tell which trees we will cut anyway. If that doesn’t work out and we feel we are completely screwed on this land we will sell it and look elsewhere. It would have to be out of province since the laws are all similar here, it’s very difficult to do any sort of permaculture in Quebec because the laws are so strict.
I find it amusing that the government put laws in place to protect the environment from average citizens yet allow municipalities and corporations to pollute as they please.
Hypocritical if you ask me.
 
pollinator
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I have to ask where is the proof municipalities and big corporations are permitted to pollute the environment.

As for the restriction on building, since you have mentioned waterfront aspect just now, could the real issue br septic pollution of the lake?
I worked in the area of Environment protection and sometimes this can be an issue.
It may be overcome by presenting you plan to ensure nothing can reach the lake.

It can be done.

As for limits on trees, I have seen people buy a lovely tree covered property and then cut everything down because it may be a fire hazard???

Hello, maybe stay in town!

I look at Quebec laws and found this laws about lakes and riverside land
Section 3.2 deals with prohibitions and exemptions.
 
Donald Smith
Posts: 30
Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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John C Daley wrote:I have to ask where is the proof municipalities and big corporations are permitted to pollute the environment.



https://www.antarcticajournal.com/montreal-to-dump-2-billion-gallons-of-raw-sewage-into-its-drinking-water/

https://gatewaygazette.ca/montreal-begins-controversial-sewage-dump-into-st-lawrence-river/

That’s just to name some, and I realize the city claims it had no choice to do so however it has happened more than a few times.

And the waterfront issue we knew about, we know not to do anything 20 meters to the water. But requiring a permit for each and every tree we need to remove on the property? In an urban setting I understand of course but in a forest? It seems excessive especially considering that the permits cost money.

And no, we don’t want to clear cut the place we want to clear an area for our home and plant other trees on the property (chestnut, oak, fruit trees etc). We’re talking less than a 1/4 acre size, likely less.
All of the which we stated in the email to the city.
Regardless, we will get some permits for the few trees that need to come down(dangerous) and see about the others.
 
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In my youth I worked in construction for a GC building retirement lake houses for people moving in from out of town. The homeowners would sometimes have trees cut that they weren’t supposed to (knowing they were off limits) close to the water, and would end up getting a $xx,xxx fine. We (construction workers) would all be horrified at the costs of the fine. The homeowners would pay it and go on; they didn’t care they wanted their lake house yard just how they wanted it.

Many “excessive” requirements find their roots in abuse of previous requirements. If the permit requirements seem excessive (permit per tree) realize they may have previously been lax (permit for small clearings) which then were abused (people cut whatever they wanted) causing the permitting change. I don’t know if that is the situation around you, not knowing the backstory of your locality, but around me that is typically where they come from.

If the permit costs are an issue you may want to consider after initially getting what you need for the house slowly applying for permits over time. I would carefully consider the cost implications of being caught cutting without a permit versus the cost of a permit.
 
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I am very sorry to hear that you have run into these issues. I'm not acquainted with Canada's laws on these things, but I was trained as a real estate paralegal and appraiser in the States, and down here, I have some qualifications. Part of what you have discovered is that when land is available at a surprisingly low price, there's generally a reason. Such as restrictions on what you are allowed to do on the land.

The realtor's job is to make a sale, not to know the legal restrictions on the property, nor to explain them to the prospective buyer. They're not supposed to engage in fraud, and from your description of this particular purchase, that might be an issue.

How much of the information you have shared here about the restrictions have you confirmed directly with the regulatory authorities? The notion of needing a permit for each individual tree to be cut sounds unreasonable and I wonder if there's some misunderstanding. It could actually be the law, but considering how much extra work that can make for the people responsible for issuing permits and enforcing...

Before I even looked at property in person, when my wife and I were searching for our homestead site, I did hours of due diligence research checking the zoning laws for the municipality. making sure we would be allowed to build on the land and operate our homestead as we wanted. There were many properties that were initially appealing, but rapidly scratched off the list due to zoning, or proximity to toxic areas (there was this one property, fantastic price on a hundred acres with a really good location and... formerly a paper mill, superfund site, interim owner lost it between taxes and bankruptcy filing because clean up requirements ... no, no no, no!). Wetland designation was another concern - I can work with wetlands for my purposes, but I can't work with regulated wetlands for my purposes ;)

Again, I am sorry tht you are in this situation. I hope that people will take notice that it is extremely important to research any piece of land you may want to purchase and get assurances from the appropriate regulatory agencies that you will be allowed to do what you need to do, rather than relying upon second hand information, especially from soneone who has a commission riding on the sale.
 
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A real estate lawyer would be helpful to you for a couple of reasons.

1.  The real estate broker said you could build because nobody uses permits anyway.  That's a statement that could be legally binding, to tell people something like that, and it's most likely not an ethical thing to say in a professional capacity.  Since you relied on the broker's statements there is a duty on their part to not mislead you by not telling you everything they knew about the property.

2.  You might be able to apply for a variance, an exception, and get it rezoned, but that takes a lawyer to evaulate whether it's possible to do.  I live in a Very Regulated Area, and people have gotten around restrictions by getting their property rezoned with an exception.  

3.  Make sure it's a legal parcel and qualifies as such. It should say on the parcel description, or  a person at the county records department would know where to look on your papers.  If it isn't a legal parcel, a lawyer will help you with that.


- A real estate lawyer would know of other properties like yours and why there are restrictions.  

- What is it zoned?  Did that type of zoning have restrictions?

- Is there any mention of it being a flood plain?  That may be why it's too dangerous to build there, and previous floods have caused real hazards for houses built along the waterfront.  There may be a corner of it far enough away from the water that might qualify as a building site if you get a variance.  If it is in a flood plain you might not be able to get insurance.  If you can't get insurance, then you most likely won't be able to get a loan on it, to build or for any other reason.  

- What is the parcel description, anything there that describes a no-building restriction?

- Have you gone down to the courthouse records department and gotten everything on that parcel you can lay your hands on?  You might be able to research what the records department has online first.  Calling that department up and talking to someone would help in getting all of the history, or tell you where to go to get it.

- Did you check the title company papers to see if any description of restrictions was on those papers, and that they knew about it, too?  Title companies in the US go over those papers and read outloud a lot of the descriptions and say, "You have read and understood these things?" or something like that.   Don't get discouraged if you answered "yes," to that question, because obviously neither the broker nor the title company told you about the restrictions, and it's very likely they knew exactly what was going on.

If you do try for a variance, maybe do a few things ahead of time, like find out where the bedrock is that you can build on.  If there are signs of rocks, boulders, or soil with lots of chipped pieces of rock that show that bedrock is underneath, soil samples can be taken.  If it's just river muck most of the year and only dry in the summer or fall, that may be a warning that even if you could build, because of the variance, it would require very deep piers dug down until bedrock is reached, and the house is essentially suspended over soil that can't support it.  

That would also indicate a very difficult struggle to maintain a solid driveway.

Can the fire department and the propane companies get to your building site, turn around and leave safely?  That's also something that is necessary, since these entities are connected to the county that issues permits, and if they won't come onto your property, then building there won't be allowed.  Where I am there has to be a 75-foot turnaround for firetrucks and propane trucks, that is passable all year long.

Would the power company bring power at least to the property line?  Sometimes agricultural power is allowed, and that is another category that isn't quite as strict as residential power.

If any of these things are a problem, then getting a variance might not be worth it because there are just too many difficult or dangerous conditions as far as a building is concerned.

Or if it's safe enough, as in you wouldn't worry about it being broken into, check and see if a trailer is allowed.  Get a 30-foot trailer and park it there, make it as nice as you can.  Trailers these days are very comfortable and livable.   I wouldn't recommend an RV with an engine attached, I've never been able to keep rats and mice out of the engine compartment, and then they get access to inside the walls, and it just becomes a nightmare.  It's a drag maintaining an engine you don't use, anyway.  But trailers are sealed pretty well against rodents.  

If you do sell it, be sure to tell the buyers of building restrictions!

I don't know about others, but I'd rather be outside working the land, than maintaining a large house, even if this culture pushes The House Of Your Dreams.   For some Land of Your Dreams offers a lot more.

If you intend to be there into retirement it might be worth going to bat for this property, especially if you really love it.


 
Cristo Balete
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One more thing, for anyone considering buying rural land.  My parents retired to a pretty remote area where the real estate business was about as questionable as I've ever seen.   I've got some real estate experience in buying and selling, and when it came time to sell their place I couldn't believe some of the behaviors, statements, lies and dirty tricks going on, including just flat out lying to my sibling and I, saying one thing to one of us, and one thing to another, trying to set us against one another.  I can't say all rural locations have questionable business practices, but it's crucial to be on the alert.

Since remote locations rarely have enough comparables to come up with a really reliable estimate for properties, they did and said all kinds of squirrely things.  I certainly felt taken advantage of, especially since buying land or selling off the family home has a huge emotional component to it, and they manipulate the people involved for all it's worth.   There aren't that many real estate people in rural areas, they all know each other, and they all tell each other things that take advantage of their prospective buyers.  So trying to get a second opinion from another local real estate agent might not be the most impartial person to consult.

I wish I had gotten a lawyer in on it, at least from a consultation perspective at first, getting second opinions, knowing my rights, what I could insist on, where I should do if I felt the agent had just gone over into illegal and unethical.  You often see, when people buy property they say things like, "We spent so much effort into trying to buy it," "We were exhausted," "We were juggling work, kids, life and trying to buy real estate."   That's where a second opinion from a non-real-estate agent is important.

If the buyer and seller are using the same agent, consult a lawyer, consult a lawyer!!

So stay skeptical....
 
Donald Smith
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Location: Quebec, Canada zone 4a
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Thank you everyone for the info! My wife and I will keep the land for now.

Sometime in the spring we will be requesting some permits to remove trees from our property. We will remove the trees that pose a risk on the land for starters ( the leaning ones that have fallen but not come down). The law specifies that in certain situations tree removal is allowed, specifically trees that pose a danger, trees that are dead, and  trees that are preventing the understory from growing (although a permit is still required for each tree).

We also found out that we are allowed to clear up to 30% of the total land for a house which in our case is one acre, but only at the time the house is built and that only requires a building permit.

So, our hope is that they won’t give us too much trouble in getting these permits, if all goes well in getting the ones we need for the dangerous trees then we will move forward and try for some of the dead trees on our property and then the ones blocking too much light for the understory.


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