What you need to know about the new Private Roads By-law (2020)
The new By-law on private road maintenance is now effective as of June 17, 2020. pdf View the Private Roads By-law (215 KB) . For more information about the new By-law and its public engagement process, please visit: https://engage.modl.ca/private-roads-by-law.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you live on a private road? Are you considering buying property on a private road? Living on a private road comes with unique responsibilities.
What Is a Private Road?
A private road is a road that is not owned by the Municipality or the Province. Not all private roads are created equally: Within the Municipality there are multiple types of Private Roads.
- A private road can be a 'driveway', a 'legal right of way', an 'engineer- designed road', or any combination.
- A private road can be owned by a landowner, a private road landowners' association, multiple owners, or just a deeded right-of-way for access.
- A private road may or may not be built to any approved standard.
How many private roads are in the Municipality?
In the Municipality, there are 1,581 kilometres of roads.
The Province owns 1,238 km (78%),
The Municipality owns 11.8 km (0.75%), and
“Private Roads” owned by persons or associations are 331 km (21%).
Who maintains my private road?
Because every private road is different, the Municipality recommends seeking legal advice for specific questions on a specific private road. This is because the ownership of private road plays a large role in influencing the responsibility and liability. The roads can be owned by a private individual, development corporation, or road owners' association - registered and unregistered. In some cases, provisions are written in the deeds or parcel registers, detailing the responsibility of property owners.
Typically, maintenance of a private road is the responsibility of the landowners along that road. This includes snow removal, grading, vegetation removal, pothole filling, bridge and culvert repair, road improvements, and other such maintenance activities. The arrangements for how a private road is maintained (e.g. who does the work and who pays for it) vary. However, a common approach can be to establish a "road owners' association". This is a society registered under the Nova Scotia Societies Act that is tasked with setting a budget, collecting fees from property owners, and contracting for road maintenance services. For more information on forming a road association non-profit society, please contact Access Nova Scotia.
Does the Municipality help with private road maintenance?
The Municipality is not involved in private road maintenance. However, registered road owners' associations can apply to have the Municipality collect annual road maintenance fees on the association's behalf. The fee will appear on the tax bill for affected landowners. This service is offered to help simplify administration for road owners' associations. For more information, please see the Private Road Maintenance and Improvement By-law.
Who is liable for accidents on private roads?
We recommend seeking legal advice for specific questions on a specific private road, as the liability issues depend on the ownership of private roads. If a private road is owned by a road owners' association, there is an option to consult with insurance companies for additional information regarding Directors Liability Insurance.
Am I still required to pay for road maintenance charges, even if I am not in favour of charge collection by the Municipality?
You are still required to pay for the road charge. Once the agreement between the Municipality and a private road association is signed, after meeting all the petition requirements, the charge will appear on your Spring tax bill. Please be aware that the charge becomes a statutory lien on your property.
How can I not be charged road fees on my tax bill?
You may request the Municipality to exempt a charge from you if you don't use the private road or do have access to a public road. Please see Section 13 of the By-law for more detail.
Can the Municipality acquire properties to widen private roads?
Section 224 of the Municipal Government Act allows the Municipality to acquire properties for the purposes of widening, altering or diverting an existing street or pathway. However, the definition of existing street is limited to public roads, not private roads or legal rights-of-way.
Do I now have to upgrade my private road to municipal road standards?
The new By-law does not mandate minimum standards on existing private roads. Municipality held public engagement sessions in September 2019. At that time, the majority of landowners did not want mandatory road standards.
For more information, please read the Private Roads Brochure.
What should I consider when buying on a private road?
Buying a new property comes with many questions and decisions. If you are thinking of buying on a private road, some questions you may wish to consider are:
- Does the property come with a legal right to use the private road?
- How is road maintenance organized? Are there any agreements in place to set out rights and responsibilities of landowners along the private road?
- Is there an established road owners' association? If so, who is currently on the board of the association and what is the association's budget?
- What are the annual fees for road maintenance? Are there any major road upgrades planned?
- Are road name signs posted?
- Is the private road surface wide enough to comfortably allow emergency vehicles, even in winter? Are the private road and associated structures (e.g. bridges, culverts, and ditches) in good repair? Some indicators of poor design and/or maintenance include excessive potholes and rutting, poor water drainage, collapsed culverts, overgrown ditches, and large rocks exposed in the road surface.
- What are my responsibilities as an owner on this private road? Who is liable if there is an accident or emergency vehicles cannot travel on the private road?
Important Documents and Links
For detailed information on living on a private road, and how it relates to you, please contact:
Municipality of the District of Lunenburg
Phone (902) 541-1325