5 Legal Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a House in Ontario

Buying a house represents a significant milestone for many, filled with excitement and anticipation. However, the complexity of the legal landscape in Ontario requires buyers to proceed with caution. The guidance of a real estate lawyer is invaluable in highlighting and avoiding common legal pitfalls that could complicate your home-buying process. Here, we explore five crucial areas where legal issues often arise, emphasizing the importance of professional advice to secure a smooth transaction.

#1. Not Conducting a Thorough Title Search

A title search is like doing a deep background check on a house you want to buy. It helps you find out if there are any problems with the house’s history that could cause trouble later on. For example, there might be a lien, which is when someone else has a legal claim to some of the house’s value because of an unpaid debt. Or, there could be an encroachment, which means someone is using part of the property without permission, like a neighbour’s fence being on the land you want to buy.

This is where a real estate lawyer comes in. They do a detailed title search to catch any hidden issues. This way, you won’t have any surprises after you buy the house. If the lawyer finds something wrong, they can often fix it before you go through with the purchase. Protecting you from buying a house with problems that could cost you a lot of money or headaches later on.

#2. Overlooking the Importance of a Status Certificate for Condo Purchases

A status certificate is a report that gives a snapshot of the financial and legal health of a condominium unit and its condo corporation. Think of it as a health checkup for the building and the specific unit you’re interested in buying. It tells you about things like how much money the condo has saved up for future repairs if there are any legal issues going on, and what the rules are for living there. This information is crucial because it helps you understand what you’re getting into. If the condo doesn’t have enough money saved up for repairs, you might have to pay more fees later on.

When you have a real estate lawyer look over the status certificate, they’re checking to make sure there aren’t any surprises that could cause problems for you. They know what warning signs to look for, like big upcoming repair bills or rules that could restrict how you use your condo. By reviewing this certificate carefully, they can help you avoid buying into a situation that could be financially stressful or not what you expected.

#3. Ignoring Property Zoning Laws and Restrictions

Zoning laws are rules that cities and towns make to control how land and buildings can be used. These laws decide if a place can be used for homes, businesses, factories, or farms. This is important when buying a house because you want to make sure you can use it the way you want. For example, you might buy a house thinking you can also run a business from there, but then find out the zoning laws don’t allow it. Common zoning restrictions include how big buildings can be, how much of the land can be covered by buildings, and what activities are allowed on the property.

A real estate lawyer helps by checking the zoning laws for the area where you want to buy a house. They make sure that how you plan to use the house is allowed under these laws. If a lawyer finds out that a house doesn’t follow zoning laws, they’ll tell you about the problems this can cause, like having to pay fines or being forced to change how you use the property. By having a lawyer check these things before you buy, you can avoid a lot of trouble and make sure your new house fits your plans.

#4. Underestimating the Impact of Environmental Issues

Environmental issues, like soil contamination, can have a big effect on properties. Soil contamination happens when harmful chemicals get into the ground where houses or other buildings are. This can come from old gas stations, factories, or even farms that used to be on the land or nearby. It’s a big deal because it can make people sick, hurt the value of your house, and you might not be allowed to build or add on to your house like you want to. There are also laws that say if your property is contaminated, you might have to clean it up, which can cost a lot of money.

This is where a real estate lawyer can really help you out. They arrange for experts to check the land for any harmful chemicals before you buy the house. This is called an environmental assessment. If the assessment finds something bad, the lawyer can give you advice on what to do next. They might suggest talking to the seller about fixing the problem, or they might tell you it’s better to look for a different house. The lawyer’s job is to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into so you don’t end up with a property that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

#5. Failing to Properly Address Fixtures and Chattels

When you buy a house, it’s not just about the land and buildings. You also need to think about fixtures and chattels, which are basically the things that are attached to the house or come with it. Fixtures are items that are fixed or attached to the property, like light fixtures, built-in cabinets, or a furnace. These are usually included when you buy the house because they’re part of the building. Chattels, on the other hand, are things that are movable and not attached, like furniture, appliances (if they’re not built-in), and sometimes even window blinds.

Sometimes, buyers and sellers argue over what stays and what goes, especially if they didn’t make it clear at the start. This can delay things or even ruin a deal if it’s about something important to either side. That’s why a real estate lawyer is so handy. They make sure everything is clear from the beginning, writing down a list of all the fixtures and chattels that are being sold with the house. This keeps everyone on the same page and helps avoid arguments about whether something was supposed to be included or not. By doing this, the lawyer helps make sure the deal goes smoothly and everyone gets what they agreed to.


Awareness and proactive management of these legal pitfalls are essential when purchasing a house in Ontario. Each can profoundly impact your rights as a property owner and your financial investment. Partnering with a knowledgeable real estate lawyer provides an additional layer of security, guiding you through the legal intricacies of the home-buying process. Consulting with a reputable law firm like Lamprey Law before finalizing your property purchase can safeguard your investment, ensuring a legally secure transaction tailored to your needs and offering peace of mind in your new venture.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced real estate lawyers. We are here to support and protect your legal interests as you embark on this exciting journey of homeownership.