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Municipality not responsible for providing inaccurate information

Daniel Waldman of Pallett Valo draws our attention to a case that should be very worrying for anybody who needs accurate information from a municipality: Charlesfort Developments Limited v. Ottawa (City).

The Court of Appeal held that that the city of Ottawa owed the developer Charlesfort no duty of care in a rezoning application. More specifically, the City had no responsibility to provide Charlesfort with accurate information about “the existence, location, and size of municipal structure such as the water main and to advise whether it played a critical role in the municipal water supply and whether the city had any knowledge of its condition,” even though this information was directly relevant to Charlesfort’s redevelopment work.

Charlesfort relied on the information to its detriment, suffered damages, but the Court of Appeal held that it could not recover: the city was responsible for approving the redevelopment application as part of its municipal mandate and it was acting solely in the public interest. “Therefore, the court reasoned that the city had no duty to protect Charlesfort from any loss it may have suffered from inaccurate information.”

Mr. Waldman neatly summarizes the takeaway:

“This is a concerning result, given that it essentially means that, in fulfilling a public interest mandate, municipalities cannot be taken to task for providing information that is incomplete or completely inaccurate in a development application. This holds true even if a developer suffers quantifiable damages as a result.

“This decision shows that developers should always take the extra step to verify information from given by municipalities instead of taking it at face value. Although this may make the whole development process longer and more difficult, skipping this step could result in increased time and expense with no compensation”.

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