Submitted by Sara E. Pope, Reed Pope LLP Lawyers
The last session of the BC legislature cleared the way for the development of “zero lot-line” or fee-simple “row housing” projects in the province.
A significant amendment to the Land Title Act was passed which allows for the registration of party wall agreements. A party wall is a shared supporting wall in a building or between two buildings that is located along a common property boundary. Before this change to the law, owners sharing a party wall could not register an agreement enforceable against subsequent owners of the party wall requiring them to maintain, repair and replace the wall and to share the costs of carrying out this work. Under our common law, these maintenance and cost-sharing obligations are considered “positive covenants” which do not run with the land and bind successive owners of title.
This limitation has had a chilling effect on the ability of developers to create fee simple row housing projects, as some local governments, and particularly the City of Vancouver, would not approve these kinds of projects because there was no strong legal mechanism in place to ensure the ongoing obligation to repair and maintain the common wall by successive owners of title. With the passage of the new sections to the Land Title Act allowing registered party wall agreements the roadblock has been removed and developers now have another development option in their tool kit. Local government may also wish to consider zoning which permits this alternative housing choice.