Every May, Michel Charpentier gets together with neighbors for a barbecue. On the agenda: the necessary works for the path where they live. As this is a private street, the Township of Gore does not deal with potholes on Bartlett Road.

“It costs us $200 to $300 per year per house,” explains Mr. Charpentier. Out of 18 houses, 17 are contributing. Only one family systematically refuses. »

There are 114 private streets in this municipality located in the Laurentians, totaling 45 km, reports the mayor of Gore, Scott Pearce, also prefect of the MRC d’Argenteuil and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “Since 2016, we’ve been helping with snow removal on private streets, but we can’t do maintenance,” says Pearce. I myself lived until recently on a private street. The secret to getting most people to contribute is communication between neighbors. You have to accept that one or two people will be hard-headed and won’t pay. Otherwise, nothing is done. »

Over the years, Mr. Charpentier has had his share of tensions. “Sometimes people want to pay less because they don’t come often. I live at the beginning of the street, but I pay the same amount as the others. If you have to charge by mileage, it becomes unmanageable. »

David Bouley-Nadon had great difficulty convincing his neighbors on Claudine and Lucien streets, also in Gore, to pay for their upkeep. “Until now, I was the only one paying for maintenance, out of about ten houses, says Mr. Bouley-Nadon. Now we are three, it’s a little better. »

It was Mr. Bouley-Nadon’s grandfather who opened the private street. The notarial deeds of sale of land indicate that the people who live on Claudine and Lucien streets contribute to the maintenance “at the discretion of each”. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay anything. It just means that we have to agree on the work to be done. »

What the law says ? “For me, a private street is like the corridor of a condo building,” said Marc-André Lechasseur, municipal law specialist at Bélanger Sauvé and assistant professor at McGill University. “All residents must contribute to its maintenance. The residents are those who live on the private street.

The street owner does not have greater financial responsibilities and could even be excused from maintaining it if he does not have waterfront land, according to Mr. Lechasseur, who cites a 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeal on a private bridge and road in the “Domaine Lajeunesse”, in Lanaudière. And according to him, even owners of waterfront land where there is no house should contribute.

Private streets are mainly present in the countryside. “These are areas that the municipality did not want to develop by building infrastructure,” says Jean-Philippe Meloche, director of the School of Urban Planning at the University of Montreal.

In the case of Mr. Charpentier and Bartlett Road, the work leading to municipalization exceeded $700,000 a few years ago. “And with the pandemic, the cost of 0-3/4 [0-3/4 gravel is used for unpaved roads] has really increased. What we paid $150 per load, is now $500. »

In addition, a municipalizable street is wider than a private street, which means that several buildings along private streets would have to be moved, reports Mr. Charpentier.

Why don’t municipalities publish a guide to good conduct for residents of private streets to reduce tensions between their citizens?

Jacques Demers, mayor of Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley and president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities, notes that the situation is complicated by the great diversity of practices.

Do houses on private streets have a lower assessment since they have less road services? “Honestly, we don’t see a difference in the market between houses that are on a private street or not,” says Mr. Demers. And I would say that people who live on a private street are the biggest users of municipal roads, because often private streets are located at the end of the street. »

According to Stéphanie Gauthier, broker at Re/Max du Cartier, a property on a private street may have a lower price because the overbidding is less frequent. “There are people who don’t want to have the trouble of having to negotiate with their neighbors,” says Gauthier. It reduces the pool of buyers. »