Nightmare neighbour dispute erupts as raccoons tear through Toronto home 

By Amanda Ferguson

A Toronto couple is calling on the city to act after more than two years of dealing with destructive raccoons and squirrels tearing apart their renovated Greenwood home due to alleged negligence of their neighbours.

The couple, Chris and Cristina Fowler, say creatures have been getting in to their semi-detached home through holes in their neighbour’s roof and eavestrough.

It’s gotten so bad, they say they’ve resorted to sleeping on a bed in an office down the hall from their master bedroom, away from where raccoon tracks and feces can be seen on the roof right outside the room’s window.

“You could hear them and see them and poke them and eyeballs staring at you,” Cristina said. “It was sleepless nights.”

One memorable night the couple recalls a raccoon arm bursting through their master bedroom wall after sounds of intense scratching. The couple then moved their entire family, including their young daughter, to sleep in the basement for weeks.

“It was just disgusting,” Cristina said. “We’re very proud homeowners, we work really hard to have a nice house. We’ve renovated, we keep it clean, and here’s this paw right where we sleep.”

A raccoon can be heard attempting to scratch through the walls in a video Cristina Fowler filmed last year. Watch below. 

To add to the holes upstairs, there’s also a man-made hole in the basement bathroom wall. Two weeks ago, the couple says a leak erupted in a pipe on their neighbour’s side. They believe their neighbours shut off the water downstairs, but the Fowler’s insurance company refuses to patch up the wall until the problem is addressed on the other side.

CityNews reached out the homeowners on the other side of the Fowler’s semi-detached home. They did not respond for comment.

The Fowlers say they’ve complained to the city multiple times since 2016. A look at the city’s database reveals four separate investigations: two for long grass and two for property standards. One of the investigations resulted in the city initiating court action for failure to comply with a work order.

The invasion of rodents like rats, mice, raccoons and squirrels in a home is a violation of the City of Toronto’s property standards bylaw, which requires homeowners to keep the exterior of a building sealed so rodents and vermin can’t get in.

“I also look to the city and the bylaw office to help in this situation,” Chris said. “The bylaws are here to protect homeowners and protect the citizens. It’s not working right now.”

Mark Sraga, the city’s investigation services director, says city protocol dictates an investigation will be launched after a complaint. Homeowners have a 14-day appeal period and are given 21 days to comply with a work order. If they don’t comply, the city can do remedial work with the cost passed on to the to homeowner’s taxes or charge them and take them to provincial court.

The maximum fine for failing to comply is $50,000.

Toronto real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder says about 10 per cent of homeowners move due to disputes with their neighbours.

“You don’t have an automatic right to just go onto your neighbour’s land to fix something,” Weisleder said. “Either you have to go to the city to get a permit or you have to take the person to court, especially when they’re doing something on their side of property that’s damaging your side.”

It can be a costly process that can take months that many homeowners, like the Fowlers, view as a last resort. Moving, they say, is not an option.

“We’ve been here for 16 years, we’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this home, we made it our family home and I see no reason why we should be forced to move because a neighbour is unwilling to take care of their property,” Chris said.

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