Road Issues

banner image: rural roads

While some of your drive may be on provincial highways or municipally-owned roads, most trips to a cottage, camp or cabin end along a private road.

The quality of your private road can affect both your access to and enjoyment of the property, and its overall value.

Local committees, associations, or road groups are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to private roads. Residents using these non-municipal routes to access their properties have a common interest in, and a shared commitment to, the road’s condition and safety. Ensuring uninterrupted access, fair use, and sharing of the costs of these important community assets means planning ahead and ensuring everyone is included in the decision making.

The evolution of a road group takes time, and may happen in several stages. You might be starting at the very beginning, or you might already have some pieces in place, but lack the support of a written set of bylaws, peer mentors, or benchmark statistics. Some groups begin as a “hand-shake” agreement between neighbours but evolve over time into more standardized organizations.

Wondering what FOCA knows about rural roads?

For information about rural road associations including common questions, important considerations, and how FOCA can help along the way, download this FOCA overview (PDF, 2 pages). See below for more resources.

FOCA can and does act as a sounding board and clearing house for general questions related to roads. Roads issues can often be specific and complex matters, and opinions or information offered by FOCA should not be considered a substitute for professional legal advice. Individual circumstances should always be confirmed with independent legal counsel or other professional input as appropriate.

*NOTE: FOCA cannot provide legal or insurance advice about road issues, but member Associations that carry insurance through the FOCA Association liability program administered by Cade Associates Insurance Brokers can access a free legal helpline as one of the policy benefits.

Seasonal or Year-Round Use:

Often problems arise when there are people that use the road differently, such as permanent or year-round users, compared to those who only want seasonal access. Obviously the budget for a year-round road will be quite different! Decisions should be made communally, about how to apportion costs associated with maintenance, plowing and repair. This is a discussion for a membership meeting with clear communications about the implications for every resident, and clarity about who pays what. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, but FOCA can provide member Associations with some benchmark statistics and peer examples, to help your group navigate this conversation. Contact us for assistance.

January 2023 – ‘Short-term rentals do not belong on private roads’: Whitestone residents hopeful for revised bylaw (ParrySound.com) – The revised short-term rental unit bylaw is expected to come to council in March, and might see private roads exempted from short-term rentals.

May 2021 – Cottage Properties: Who Has the Right of Way? (Prudent Law, Mississauga) – about a recent Ontario Court decision “Fisher v. Saade” – could a right-of-way (ROW) from a non-waterfront property to the water’s edge via an adjacent waterfront property be restricted from commercial use, such as rental, of the non-waterfront property? In this particular case, the non-waterfront property had an express grant registered on the property by the previous owner of the access property. In this case, the Court ruled there was “no restriction against commercial use” in the language of the ROW; it was reasonable to provide the ROW to paying tenants.

November 2019 – Council weighs fairness of plowing selected cottage roads (Timmins) Also, Timmins has a process for ‘elevating’ non-serviced roads to become serviced; download a copy of the 2016 Charland & Bertrand Road Winter plowing report (PDF, 14 pages)

November 2019 – If passed as part of the government’s proposed Bill 132, “Better for People, Smarter for Business” Act, the Ministry of Transportation would set out specific requirements in the regulations for a municipality to permit off-road vehicles (ORV) on their roads. According to the Province, this will be done in consultation with industry, the ORV riding community, municipalities and enforcement services. Read more.

June 2017 – Can I Allow a Friend to Use Shared Private Road in Cottage Country? (Toronto Star)

March 2017 – Snow Removal Pricing – what’s legal and what’s not (Government of Canada)

December 2014 – What You Should Know About Private Roads (Merovitz Potechin LLP, Ottawa)

February, 2012 – Can I assume I have road access? (Cottage Life) – real estate purchases: if the current owners use a road for access, can I assume I can too? (hint: not necessarily)

A reminder to any of our Member Associations that are incorporated in Ontario:

September 30, 2023 is the final date to hold your board meetings or member meetings electronically, if your bylaws say you cannot. During COVID-19, the province temporarily suspended this condition, allowing associations to meet electronically even if their bylaws said otherwise.

FOCA has other important road resources for our Member Associations, which are available upon login below. This includes benchmark statistics from our 2019 survey of more than 130 member groups that undertake maintenance of their roads.

Members can access the survey results plus additional resources below, including:

  • private roads: who’s in charge? who makes decisions and who pays for what?
  • road costs: getting everyone to pay their fair share (including small claims court: when to go, and what to know)
  • road liability & insurance considerations for Associations
  • road concerns related to ATV/ORV use on private property.

You're missing members-only content!

The following resources - including benchmark data from FOCA's 2019 Road Survey - are only available to members of our Member Associations & current Friends of FOCA (our annual supporters).
If you are already registered on the FOCA website, please login below with your Username and Password.
Need help with your login? Contact us for assistance during business hours. Not yet a Member Association? Find out why you should be!

Please note: the following is archival material, and some links to third-party resources may no longer be active.

 

November 2019 – If passed as part of the government’s proposed Bill 132, “Better for People, Smarter for Business” Act, the Ministry of Transportation would set out specific requirements in the regulations for a municipality to permit off-road vehicles (ORV) on their roads. According to the Province, this will be done in consultation with industry, the ORV riding community, municipalities and enforcement services. Read more.

June 2017 – Can I Allow a Friend to Use Shared Private Road in Cottage Country? (Toronto Star)

March 2017 – Snow Removal Pricing – what’s legal and what’s not (Government of Canada)

If you have a personal experience regarding your cottage road please let us know as we can all learn from shared experiences.

If you do not find what you are looking for in these pages, member Associations can contact the FOCA office for more help.

*NOTE: FOCA cannot provide legal or insurance advice about road issues, but member Associations that carry insurance through the FOCA Association liability program administered by Cade Associates Insurance Brokers can access a free legal helpline as one of the policy benefits.