Detached or Semi-detached?


By Brian Madigan LL.B.

This is an interesting question. The property quite clearly had been the west side of a semi-detached pair of buildings. So, what happens now that the other building to the east is gone?

Actually, nothing!

It’s still a semi-detached. You may have to look at the differences between “real estate” and “real property” to figure out the difference.

Just remember that real estate deals with the physical property and the term real property has an expanded definition which includes all the legal rights and obligations that go with the property.

When we check the zoning and the building permits at the city, you will find a zoning confirmation that permitted semi-detached buildings. That meant two buildings on one legal lot. You will also find in the building department that a building permit was issued evidencing compliance.

So, what happens when they become old and one is torn down? In this case, the east building was removed. However, all we can see is that part above the ground. There may still be a foundation. That would be much more difficult to remove. So, it’s likely still there. And, that means that the owner of the east part of the lot could build a new building once again and attach it to the west half.

There is another significant issue.

With a semi-detached building, there will likely be a common wall separating the two. This common wall is either subject to a “common wall agreement” or a similar form of agreement that is implied by law.

The owner of the east building had the right to demolish the building, but not to remove the common wall, or remove his half of the common law.

The owner of the west half which is intact, has the right to:

  1. support and protection offered by the common wall, and
  2. support by the foundation owned by the east half.

The title of the property on the east half of the lot is subject to reciprocal legal obligations being, the duty to provide:

  1. support and protection through its common wall,
  2. support by the foundation.

It would be very difficult to know about these legal duties and obligations without viewing the title documents.

If you are about to take a listing; be sure to review the documents carefully. If there is some doubt remaining, then don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer or a solicitor practising in the real estate field to eliminate any uncertainty.

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker

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