If a cemetery was once on your property and the bodies were supposed to have been re-interred elsewhere, it can have disastrous consequences if you’re doing some building and dig up some old bones.
Here’s why. Anna and Mike bought a property in Ontario and planned to build a new home there. Halfway through construction, the remains of two bodies were found. It turns out that the property was once owned by a church and the church had a cemetery. When the congregation moved in 1861, the bodies were supposed to have been moved to another cemetery.
They missed some. Now construction has ground to a halt.
It turns out that, in 1999, bodies were discovered nearby when local municipal workers were installing a waterline. The church hired a private contractor to move the graves so that a rail line could be built through the area.
In the meantime, the municipality issued a building permit to Anna and Mike and did not warn them about what they might find.
According to the Registrar of Cemeteries, under the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services which administers the Ontario Funeral Burial and Cremations Services Act, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to fix the problem. The costs include an archaeological assessment to determine how many bodies might still be buried and moving the bones elsewhere for between $500 and $1,000 each.
In this case, the lawsuits have not started yet as to whether this should be the responsibility of the church, which sold the property long ago, the municipality or the owners. It is hoped that the situation can still be worked out amicably.
There is an Ontario government website under the Ministry of Consumer Services where anyone can search to see if there ever was a cemetery registered on their lands. You can enter the street address, the lot, plan, concession, Municipality and County. Here is the link
There is also a list of burial sites, which may not be accurate or complete, that can be accessed by sending an email to email@example.com .
Most developers will have their lawyers conduct these searches when buying vacant land that they wish to build on. They may also require that an archaeological assessment be done if there is any suspicion that there were bodies interred on the lands at one point.
If a seller knows that there may have been a cemetery or burial plot on their lands in the past, then in my opinion, it should always be disclosed to any buyer. It probably creates a stigma on the property, whether or not the bodies were moved elsewhere.
If you are not sure, also include a clause in any real estate contract that the seller has no knowledge of any cemetery or burial plot having existed on the land. A seller must respond honestly to this, if they know.
Thanks to Mark Weisleder for this fascinating, if a little gruesome, piece of information.
Mark’s Contact Information
Mark Weisleder is a Partner, author and speaker at the law firm Real Estate Lawyers.ca LLP.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.888.876.5529
There is a lot of confusion out there by buyers and real estate salespeople as to what insurance is required when buying a condominium. The mistake is thinking that the insurance policy for the building will always cover your situation. In most cases, the buyer will still have to pay for part of the damages, even if they have done nothing wrong.
Condominium buildings do have an insurance policy that insures the building and the units. However, it will not cover any improvements to the unit made by the owners or the owners’ contents, should damage occur, whether by water leakage, fire or smoke damage. In addition, if someone you invite into your unit gets hurt, they can sue the owner personally for liability. As a result, most condominium buyers purchase a policy that provides coverage for their contents, any upgrades that they do to their unit and liability insurance to protect them if someone gets hurt visiting their unit.
What is confusing to most buyers is that just about every condominium insurance policy has deductibles, which become the owner’s responsibility should any damage occur, even if it is not the owner’s fault. The deductibles are usually $5,000 but I have seen many policies that have $10,000 deductibles. For example, let’s say you leave the bathtub overflowing and water damages the unit below you. You are responsible to pay the deductible, and the condominium will pay for any damage above the deductible. This will also be the case if you are responsible for the HVAC equipment in your unit and any malfunction causes damages to the building or to other units.
Let’s say the pipes in the wall burst, your unit was damaged and you did nothing wrong. Although the pipes may be the responsibility of the condominium corporation, you will still have to pay the deductible before the condominium pays anything extra to repair the damages. The only way to fight this is if you could prove that the condominium corporation was negligent in conducting repairs and should have known that the damage could occur. In my experience, you will pay more in legal fees to fight this than the deductible, so it is just preferable to have the proper insurance instead.
In every condominium status certificate, there is a summary given of the insurance policy for the building, including any deductibles. One way to protect yourself is to send this certificate to your own insurance company and tell them that you wish to buy extra coverage for the deductibles noted on the policy.
A better idea, in my opinion, is to use the same insurance company that your building is using for your own insurance package. This company likely understands the deductibles better than anyone and will make sure that your package covers any gap that may exist in the building insurance policy.
If you are buying a condominium as an investment, you still need to make sure that you have this type of insurance protection. Most tenants purchase insurance for their belongings and to cover liability. If you want the tenant to also pay for insurance for the deductibles, you need to say so in your lease agreement and make sure that the tenant provides proof that they have obtained all required insurance coverage before you give them the keys to the unit.
When you understand the insurance you need before you move into a condominium unit, you will be prepared should anything occur later.