Real Estate Litigation Articles

What’s that doing there? Will it stop me building on my property?

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist.

Huge numbers of Ontario property owners, especially in rural areas, may face issue of Hydro poles on their land ostensibly blocking construction plans.

What can a property owner do if his property contains an unauthorized hydro pole which interferes with plans to build a new home?

Last summer I received an email from a Star reader who I will call Hamza. He wrote to inquire about a Hydro One pole on his property. “My wife and I own a cottage north of Toronto,” he wrote. “We are planning on taking down a seasonal cottage and building a year-round home. As part of the permitting process, we had a survey completed.

“The survey shows that a Hydro One pole is located on our property. The pole services our property and our neighbour’s cottage. The line going to the neighbour’s cottage passes over our property.”

He added that there was no easement shown on the survey. The cottage has been in the family since the 1960s and no family member is aware of Hydro One ever seeking an easement.

Hamza wanted to have the pole moved onto the township’s roadway as the existing placement impeded his construction plans.

He asked whether he or Hydro One was responsible for the cost of moving the pole.

I was intrigued by the inquiry because it is an issue which may face huge numbers of Ontario property owners, particularly in rural areas. In a short email reply I referred him to the Hydro One website, www.hydroone.com, and a section on unregistered easement inquiries.

The website explains that an unregistered easement is a legal right that is not registered on title to a property. Typically the easements are granted from property owners to Hydro One or one of its predecessor companies to construct, operate, access, maintain and operate its equipment including poles and transmission lines.

The Electricity Act, 1998, legislated that all future easements granted to Hydro One Networks Inc. must be registered on title.

But all land in Ontario remains subject to any unregistered easement rights given to Hydro OneNetworks or any of its predecessors prior to April 1, 1998.

The Hydro One website has a simple self-search tool for property owners to check if their property is subject to any easements not registered on the property title.

All that is necessary for owners or would-be owners to search is the municipal address or the registered legal description. The cost is $104.54 including HST payable by credit card, and the utility’s reply will be emailed within 21 days.

Earlier this month I received a follow-up email from Hamza. It turned out that the pole was from 1964 and the utility never obtained an easement over his land.

“We have had success in getting Hydro One to move the pole at no cost to us,” Hamza emailed me. “Thanks for your help.”

He and his wife are now able to build their dream year-round cottage without having to avoid a hydro pole which should never have been there in the first place.

Hydro One – and its representative Scott Imrie – deserve kudos for owning the problem and correcting it with no cost to the cottagers.


Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He is Certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a Specialist in Real Estate Law.

He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366. Visit his website www.aaron.ca