What are Zero Lot Lines - Calgary, Alberta
Zero lot lines gained popularity in Calgary sometime in the late 70’s as the previously popular 50’ lots became more and more scarce and narrow lots became the order of the day. As the city grew in size and inched it’s way outward, smaller lots and zero lot lines became the order of the day, and developers saw this as a pretty good solution.
By building homes directly on the property line, developers were able to offer the consumer what seemed to be quite a large lot, which they could enjoy to a much greater degree than had they built the home directly in the centre, which would leave only a small strip of land on either side, just big enough for a sidewalk or two.
This worked out quite well, as very often the space on one side of the house on a narrow lot is not really utilized all that well, and is very often considered wasted, with only a fence corralling a weed infested high maintenance area which is seldom used. By basically giving this wasted space to the neighbour, this allowed him to have much more space on his lot to enjoy in pretty much whatever way he chose. I have heard about a couple of problems that I have heard about with zero lot lines.
The first one is that while the neighbour may use the property, there is still a “Right of Way” registered on title. If the neighbouring home owner wishes to come and paint their house or make improvements on it, the area surrounding it must be kept clear from obstructions so that he can have free access to it. As a neigbour utilizing this space, failure to keep this zone free from obstacles could result in the homeowner having the city issue an order of demolition or removal so that he can properly service his home. Failure to comply with such an order would result in the City of Calgary removing the structure and billing any costs to you.
The second thing I have heard about is concerning attached decks and fences. Extreme care must be taken that additions such as these to the home are not protruding onto the neighbours property. Normally, the three meter set-back rule is more than enough to allow for this but when you are building right onto the zero lot line, neighbours may be far less forgiving, and have the City of Calgary order you to have the structure removed or moved if there is any infringement. This can cause some hard feelings which could last years to overcome, if ever, not to mention the added expense.
Zero Lot Lines can be a great solution to enhance the utility and usability of narrow lots in communities such as Dalhousie where they became popular. You should however be aware of the limitations and regulations concerning these before jumping in with both feet, just so that there is no misunderstanding further down the road.