Squatter's Rights in Canada

By Edriaan Koening ; Updated June 05, 2017
Chairs facing a piece of land on lakeshore

Squatter's rights, also known as adverse possession, solved land disputes in the Middle Ages by giving ownership to a person who occupies and improves the land. It occurs when a trespasser occupies land for a minimum period of time without eviction by the legal owner, and ownership passes from the legal owner to the trespasser. Laws regarding the matter vary across Canada, and adverse possession is not possible under some jurisdictions. In most Canadian provinces and territories, certain factors must be present for adverse possession to take place.

Time Period

The squatter must occupy the land for a minimum period of time, which differs across the country. Ontario allows adverse possession after 10 years of occupation, while the time period is 20 years in some other states. If a squatter replaces another in occupying the land, the time period of both squatters might be able to be accumulated as long as there is continuity of possession.

Land Type

Adverse possession cannot be claimed on land owned by the government. Moreover, there are two systems of land registry in Canada: land titles and registry. You can claim squatter's rights only on land registered under the Registry System.


The squatter has to occupy the land in an actual, continuous, open, visible, notorious and exclusive manner. The squatter does not have to stay during the winter if it would be impractical to do so. The occupation has to be peaceable, with no physical or legal attempts to remove the squatter from the land. Visits by the legal owner to assert his ownership is not sufficient to interrupt the occupation period. However, the trespasser must not have the legal owner's permission to occupy the land.

Land Area

The squatter can claim only the part of land he occupies, not the whole area of land registered under the title.


Improvements on the land can be used to claim adverse possession. These include erecting a fence, building a house, operating a camp and using the land regularly as parking space.

About the Author

Edriaan Koening began writing professionally in 2005, while studying toward her Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Melbourne. She has since written for several magazines and websites. Koening also holds a Master of Commerce in funds management and accounting from the University of New South Wales.