Squatter's Rights in Canada

By Claire Gillespie - Updated December 12, 2018
Chairs facing a piece of land on lakeshore

What’s known informally as squatter’s rights in Canada is known as adverse possession in property law. Generally, this applies to a situation where a person who has continuously used another person's land or some part of it without their consent for a specified number of years has the right to claim legal use of it. This can range from use of an entire parcel to erecting a fence on your neighbor's land to parking on part of your neighbor's driveway. Some situations are mutual mistakes, for example a fence is put up on what both parties believe to be the property line, but discover later that the fence is actually on one side of the property line.

Tip

It is possible to prove squatter's rights in Canada by showing open, notorious and continuous possession of another's property.

Meaning of Adverse Possession

Under Canadian property law, a squatter must be in open, notorious and continuous possession of all or part of a landowner's property for a specified length of time. In other words, the squatter must act is if he owns the property and not try to hide his use of the property from the owner or the public in general. The length of time required varies by province. In Ontario, a squatter can make a claim for possessory title based on adverse possession after 10 years. By contrast, the time period is 20 years in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. However, possessory title is not the same as absolute ownership when the land is registered under the squatter’s name in the land titles register. To make a claim for absolute ownership in Ontario, the time period based on adverse possession is 20 years.

Protection Against Adverse Possession

Some Canadian provinces have laws that protect landowners from adverse possession. For example, many properties in Ontario were converted to land titles under the Land Titles Act, which protects owners from adverse possession. Someone making or defending a claim of adverse possession must show that their possession had been taking place for 10 years before the date of conversion. In other words, if the property in Ontario was converted to a land title 25 years ago, the squatter must show he had adverse possession of the property for at least 35 years. In British Columbia, the British Columbia Limitations Act makes it impossible to acquire land through adverse possession unless the right to that land by adverse possession existed before July 1, 1975.

Protecting Your Property Interests

You can protect your land ownership interests by giving permission to someone to use your land and by documenting this permission in detail. Once you give your consent to a person in possession of your land, they cannot make a claim for adverse possession at any stage. Of course, if someone moves onto your land without your consent and you know about it, you can contact the police and report them for trespass.

About the Author

Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.

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