How Does Your Property Measure Up to Your Municipality’s Property Standards Bylaw?

Increasingly, property standards bylaws are becoming more about how your property looks rather than whether it is safe. Do you have an old couch or a kitchen chair on your front porch? Do you store your recycling receptacles in your front yard? Do you have an owl on your property? These and other similar infractions could put you on the wrong side of an over-zealous bylaw officer.

Two weeks ago, City of Ottawa staff released a report recommending that the Property Standards Bylaw be amended to include the banning of green bins (for organics), and black and blue bin recyclable receptacles from front yards. Now admittedly the City decided not to approve these measures after a large public outcry. But imagine the gall of insisting that citizens separate their recyclables into separate boxes and put their organic waste in yet another bin, and then tell us where we can and can’t place those receptacles.

The notion of banning all indoor furniture from being used outdoors apparently stems from the practice of university students putting old couches and such on front porches in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa. Talk about overkill! Since this amendment was voted down but was replaced with the rules that all furniture kept outdoors must be clean and they are considering having bylaw officers patrol the university neighbourhood. And this is what some Sandy Hill residents want.
Like many of the clauses in the Property Standards Bylaw, this one leaves the door wide open for abuse. Far too often, the City is being asked to intervene in neighbour on neighbour disputes. One of the City’s councillors reported that Ottawa has the highest number of neighbour on neighbour complaints of any major city in North America.

Folks, if you have something in your yard that you think a bylaw officer might not like (or even if you don’t), take a picture of it and date it. Because we all know, bylaws can’t go backwards, they can only go forwards from the date they became law.
Oh … and about that owl in your yard. Check your local property standards bylaw closely. In the City of Ottawa, owls are considered to be “vermin”.