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Lane Maintenance and Policies

Although public lanes are not assumed for maintenance, the City will perform limited surface maintenance on a travelled lane in accordance with the Lane Maintenance Policy By-Law CPOL.-322-313 upon request from an abutting property owner. There are numerous restrictions and maintenance is limited to such things as the filling of pot holes and limited grading where possible but it excludes full restoration, paving, snow ploughing and obstruction removal. The level of service offered and schedule is at the sole discretion of the City.

Requests for maintenance can be made by calling or emailing Public Service at 519-661-4570.

For more information about the City's policy related to travelled and untravelled lanes, please see the FAQs below.


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  • Why doesn't the City maintain the lane beside my property?

    Most lanes in the City of London were created by Plans of Subdivision registered prior to the 1930's to facilitate horse drawn carriage access to the rear of the property where the carriage shed was usually located. "Survey Lanes" as they were commonly referred to, were considered to be privately owned until the 1920 Surveys Act stipulated that lanes shown on Plans of Subdivision were deemed to be public lanes owned by the municipality. It wasn't until the 1980's when a Provincial Court Judge ruled that (with some exceptions) all lanes shown on Registered Plans of Subdivision are to be considered public lanes owned by the local municipality, and the City has accepted administrative ownership of most lanes on that basis.

    Although the City accepts that it owns most public lanes, the City has never assumed lanes for maintenance for several reasons. Firstly, since many lanes were thought to be privately owned, the City never had a formal maintenance policy for lanes until recently. Aside from the obvious budget impact of formally assuming lanes for maintenance, there are many practical concerns. Lanes are typically narrow and are frequently obstructed and difficult to impossible to navigate with modern maintenance vehicles. Also, since lanes were never built to any proper standard, maintenance vehicles would likely cause damage to the lane and adjacent properties. Since there is no room for snow storage the snow would have to be trucked away which is cost prohibitive.

    These are just some of the reasons the City has continued its long standing policy of not formally assuming lanes for full-fledged maintenance, although the City's lane maintenance By-Law does provide for a limited level of service.

    To affirm, Section 31(5) of the Municipal Act 2001, as amended, sets out that municipalities are not responsible for maintenance of highways [includes lanes] laid out before January 1, 2003 unless they have previously been assumed for public use by the municipality or the highway was established by by-law, neither of which has occurred in the case of most public lanes in the City.

  • Who is responsible for maintaining the lane beside my property?

    Lane maintenance is left to the abutting property owners to deal with. It is hoped that neighbours will share responsibility for maintenance, however there is no By-Law or legal mechanism to enforce cost sharing arrangements between abutting owners and the City will not get involved in such matters.

  • Is a public lane the same as a right-of-way?

    ​No. Public lanes are laid out by Registered Plans of Subdivision, dedicated as public highway and are owned by the City. Lanes fall under the provision of the City's S-1 (Streets) By-Law.

    Rights-of-way are privately owned and can only be used by property owners that have the requisite rights stipulated in their deeds. The City has no jurisdiction over rights-of-way which are strictly a private property matter.

  • What does the term "public highway" infer?

    ​"Public highway" is a common law term that refers to the public's right of passage over a roadway, which includes streets, roads, lanes and walkways (not merely "King's Highways" administered by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation). In law, the public's right of passage over a highway is held in high regard and cannot be removed or restricted except by an Ontario Divisional Court Order in the case of unassumed lanes created by Registered Plan of Subdivision, or a By-Law passed under provisions of the Municipal Act.

  • How can I determine if the lane beside my property is a public lane or a private right-of-way?

    Public Service (519 661-4570) can tell you if the lane is a public lane or not. If it is not a public lane a title search will be required to determine its ownership and legal status. Title searches can be performed at Service Ontario, 100 Dundas Street.

  • What are the permitted uses of a public lane?

    For the neighbourhoods that have them, public lanes are intended to provide property owners with a way to access the rear of their property. Since lanes fall under the City's S-1 (Streets) By-Law, and any obstructions to a public lane which would interfere with such right of access is prohibited. Examples would include the erection of buildings, pools, fences or the parking of vehicles.

  • What kinds of lane improvements are allowed?

    ​The City has no concerns about property owners performing routine maintenance on a lane such as grading, tree and shrub trimming and snow ploughing to ensure a lane remains passable, but major improvements including the removal of trees or paving requires the City's consent. The installation of drainage works including dry wells is prohibited. A Permit for Approved Works may be required for substantial improvements such as paving.

  • Can I apply for an encroachment agreement over a public lane?

    Generally, encroachment agreements for traveled lanes will not be considered due to the lanes being too narrow to accommodate most encroachments. In the case of untraveled lanes, the City may consider entering into a license agreement for temporary occupation, but any such agreement would prohibit the erection of permanent structures and would contain a clause allowing the City to termainate the agreement at any time.

  • Can I make a claim of ownership through "squatter's rights"?

    ​From a practical standpoint, no. Section 16 of the Real Property Limitations Act, R.S.O. 1990, specifically prohibits claims of adverse possession (ownership through long-term occupation commonly known as squatter's rights) from being made against public highway, excepting a successful claim perfected prior to June 13,1922. At the very least, this would require proof of continuous and uninterrupted occupation of the lane for a minimum period of 10 years prior to 1922, which would be very difficult to prove today.

  • Can I purchase the lane beside my property?

    ​The City's street and lane closing policy provides for the closing and sale of lanes under certain circumstances, but one important criteria is that the entire lane within the block must be closed and sold in its entirety to the abutting owners in order to prevent land-locking of remnant portions of the lane. In most cases this requirement alone is sufficiently onerous to make lane closings in residential neighbourhoods quite impractical. If you have questions about a lane closing please call the Geomatics Division at 519-661-4908.

  • How do I go about removing obstructions from a lane that blocks my access?

    If a travelled lane becomes obstructed and the offending property owner is unwilling to remove the obstruction, legal advice should be sought. Because lanes are not assumed, the City will generally not get involved in disputes. However, the City's Parking Enforcement Division, at their sole discretion, may ticket vehicles blocking traveled lanes. Please call 519-661-4537 for additional information.

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