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Small Cabin Forum / Properties / Is 'lawful prior non-conforming use' a limiting factor?
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# Posted: 8 Aug 2022 16:04

Hi all,
Long time lurker, first time poster. My wife and I are finally ready to start looking at cottage or land properties, and are intrigued by a lot up in North Bruce, near Tobermory.

The property has a rustic cabin, about 300 square feet, and a small outhouse. The cabin doesn't meet the minimum square foot requirement for (1000), it doesn't have water, septic or power. It has propane appliances, and you haul in your own water. Honestly, it's a dream for the right buyer (aka me). We don't want to change a thing, just keep it off grid, as it is.

My question is this : Can I build an accessory building on the property, if my principal building isn't up to code?

Given how hands-on the local municipality is about monitoring extra buildings, trailers etc. it seems pretty likely that this building is already on bylaw radar, right? It's super old, and is likely under the "lawful prior non-conforming use" aka grandfather clause.

We won't do anything until we chat with someone from the municipality about it, and hopefully the seller can give us a sense of how the building is defined, legally speaking. But I wondered if anyone out there had dealt with something like this before. Anyone purchase a legacy property and run into trouble?

# Posted: 8 Aug 2022 16:56

Quoting: ForestHaus
hopefully the seller can give us a sense of how the building is defined, legally speaking.

Don't trust anything a seller tells you unless the seller is actually disclosing a problem issue. Check with the local authority having jurisdiction over zoning, permits, etc. As a potential purchaser, you have absolutely nothing to lose by asking questions before buying. While you are doing that I would also ask what would happen if something happened that made the existing building not fit for continues use.

# Posted: 8 Aug 2022 17:27 - Edited by: jhp

Quoting: ICC
Check with the local authority

Definitely do this. Depending on their rules, a sale of the property may immediately trigger a change to "unlawful non-conforming" and require it to be brought into compliance. This could be simple or could require a complete tear-down depending on what is the non-conforming part.

I wouldn't even bother to ask the seller or seller's agent. They are motivated to sell and nothing else. If they are the ones pointing out the conforming issue...then that's their way of saying "we warned you."

# Posted: 8 Aug 2022 20:47

Always call the authorities that are going to give you the ticket.

# Posted: 8 Aug 2022 22:12

Many places now have their 'rules and regulations' online. My pref is to always look there first to get an idea before talking to someone.

# Posted: 10 Aug 2022 18:10

We’re up on the Bruce in Lionshead. Just go into the municipal office and speak to Wendy (building code)or one of the other staff about your scenario…but no real details about where property is. She is always been upfront honest and helpful. She will let you know the status then you can decide your path.

# Posted: 11 Aug 2022 08:58 - Edited by: jsahara24

EDIT, whoops I missed your post Gcrank!.....I agree!

All good advice given so far, only one thing I would add.....

I am not familiar with Canadian zoning rules, but I would personally download the zoning ordinance and read through the 'non-conforming' sections. Always good to "know" the answer to your question before you ask it as sometimes code officials do not fully understand the rules and you need to be your own advocate.

Good luck!

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