Cut your grass or pay the fine: City targets overgrown lawns with pilot project

Mind your grass this summer or you may get hit with a hefty fine. The city is launching a pilot project to enforce the livability bylaw, which says grass cannot grow longer than six inches.

Residents will need to ensure lawns and boulevards have grass no longer than six inches

Grass and weeds longer than six inches on a lawn or boulevard will be subject to a fine as part of a new enforcement pilot program of the livability bylaw. (Supplied by Janice Lukes)

Mind your grass this summer or you may get hit with a hefty fine. The city is launching a pilot project to enforce the livability bylaw, which says grass cannot grow longer than six inches on lawns and boulevards. 

"I hope that this catches the ear of landlords and they may listen up and ... take a little more pride in the properties that they own and maintain them," said Coun. Janice Lukes.

Winnipeggers will be responsible for lawns on private property and public boulevards in front of their homes that are less than 20-feet wide. The grass needs to be trimmed so it is not "unsightly." 

Winnipeg Coun. Janice Lukes said she has been inundated with calls about long grass and unkempt lawns. (CBC)

Bylaw officers will visit the residence thought to be breaking the bylaw, provide a warning to cut it in seven to 10 days and monitor it to ensure the homeowner follows through. If the grass is not cut, the property owner will see a $250 fine added to their next property tax bill. 

Residents who continually refuse to cut their grass could be subjected to additional fines on top of the $250, Lukes said. Officers will be able to give fines of $150, with an early payment option of $75.

The window between the initial warning and the fine is to allow new homeowners and new Canadians to get educated about their responsibilities, Lukes said. 

The new changes have been a long time coming, said Lukes, who has received several complaints about long grass in recent years. 

"This has been a huge issue that I've heard about throughout my past four and a half years at city hall, a tremendous issue, actually, one of the top I'd say, top three in my ward," she said.

Brenden Dufault thinks the city of Winnipeg is 'over policing' with their enforcement of the livability bylaw. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

According to Lukes, the new measures could save the city money and take the burden off bylaw officers to constantly monitor certain homes.

"In previous years, the bylaw officer would keep coming back seeking compliance. He might come out, you know, three or four times, [but] the city has changed this process because it's very costly to keep sending the bylaw officer back to check on it," she said.

The new enforcement will also allow bylaw officers to bypass a lot of red tape, where normally the procedure would involve public works and could last eight to 10 weeks.

Despite the high volume of calls Lukes says she receives on the issue, Brenden Dufault, a homeowner in Crescentwood, doesn't feel the need to police other's lawns so harshly.

"I don't agree with a lot of people who are upset about these lawns, I think other people should be allowed to do what they want as long it doesn't harm you," he said.

Dufault is concerned that elderly or disabled residents might struggle to keep their lawns tidy. 

Homeowner Gisele Badescu is grateful the city will be enforcing the livability bylaw and believes more people will fall in line rather than pay the fines. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

In nearby Rockwood, Gisele Badescu said she understands Dufault's concerns, but argues those who cannot look after their own lawn can hire someone to cut it. 

Badescu, who was finishing up her gardening for the day, said even if others don't have much time to invest in their gardens, the grass should still be trimmed. If the grass gets too long, she said, weeds spread into other people's yards and the neighbourhood looks less tidy.