Squatter’s Rights

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For landowners in Ontario, it is important to know and understand Squatter’s rights as they pertain to the ownership of land and the changes made in the system that can impact entitlement of the land. There are many cases in court regarding land entitlement and it may cause confusion. If you have a land issue that you want to resolve, you must know about the Squatter’s rights in Ontario. These are also known as adverse possession.

What Is Adverse Possession?

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The concept of adverse possession in Ontario is a real estate law that grants land title to a person who resides on or is in possession of another person’s land provided some conditions are met. These include whether or not this person infringes on the rights of the actual owner and whether or not the person is in continuous possession of the property. In other words, adverse possession is a legal grant that occurs when one party is granted title to another party’s land by taking possession over it intentionally or unintentionally, with or without the knowledge of the original owner of the land.

The Pre-2002 Rules for Adverse Possession

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Before the Land Registration act of 2002, a squatter could apply to be registered as an owner if they have been in adverse possession of the land exclusively for more than 12 years but only under the conditions that the land is registered and that the registered land has a period of possession before 13th October 2003.

The Post-2002 Rules for Adverse Possession

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The Squatter’s rights were easier to manipulate prior to 2002. But, with the Land Registration Act of 2002, it became tougher to acquire the land unfairly. As part of the rules for adverse possession in Ontario, the Squatter must now show that the land in question has been occupied for over 10 years but this requires for one of the following three conditions to be met:

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  • Estoppel: This suggests that it would be unfair for the squatter to not be given the title and that the circumstances require the squatter to be registered as the proprietor of the land. This sounds easy but it is in fact a narrow test. However, a professional lawyer can help place the case in a clear manner to show why it would be unfair or unconscionable for the squatter to not be given the title.
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  • Some Other Right to Land: In this case, the squatter must show that they are entitled to be registered as the owner of this land. However, this plea is rarely used in practice. Your lawyer can help you navigate through your rights as a squatter in case you can show fair reasons for your entitlement.
  • Reasonable Boundary Mistake: If the squatter owns a land adjacent to the land in question, they can clarify how the boundary of the subject lands is actually a part of their current land. This is the most common condition that is relied upon.
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Along with these conditions, there are certain other issues that need to be kept in mind while preparing your case as a squatter eligible for land entitlement. Following are other things to consider as part of adverse possession in Canada:

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  1. As a squatter, their possession must genuinely be ‘adverse’. This means that they must have no expressed and implied right to use the land.
  2. The squatter must show physical possession and the intention to possess the land.
  3. The squatter must have the proof of exercised physical control over the land and the use of the land as their own. This could be by enclosing the land in a way that others cannot enter or use this land without their control or supervision.
  4. The squatter is allowed to aggregate the period of possession by themselves or their entitled predecessor.
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Keeping in mind all these conditions and grants, if the squatter trusts that the requisite period of possession has been complied with and the arrangement of land complies by the understanding of ‘adverse’, they can apply to get the entitlement of this land. The procedure depends on what rules are being followed and what accepted conditions are being placed as part of their application.

Top Tips to Avoid Adverse Possession Claims

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The rules of 2002 do make it hard for squatters to acquire land and if you are land owner, you must know squatter rights in Canada so you can avoid unfair adverse possession claims that aim to threaten your entitlement to your own land.

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  • Do a thorough inspection of your land regularly and ensure that there are no incursions. Ensure that you have a proper record of these inspections. Take photographs if needed.
  • If there is an incursion, find out when the incursion first occurred. You can also request for aerial photographs. You can also contact previous owners and speak with neighbouring landowners to know more about your land as pictures could be of little help only. These people can also stand in solidarity with your or be your witnesses.
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  • In case you find that someone has encroached on your land, ensure that you take necessary steps to remove them and have a proper fenced area around your land so they cannot enter. Ensure that a written notice has been given to them to evict the land.
  • In case of a disputed boundary issue, obtain a boundary survey report to know the acres and the boundaries of your land clearly.

How To Evict Squatters? (And What Not to Do)

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If you are the original owner of the land and want to evict squatters, here are the things that you must keep in mind to secure your land:

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  • Call the police immediately if you see potential squatters on your land.
  • Give them a written eviction notice.
  • Ensure that the squatters are removed and keep a track on further developments of your land.
  • Ensure that the land is registered and all the paperwork work is updated.
  • Take legal advice instantly.
  • If there are any things left by the squatter, tackle them legally.

Whether you want to exercise squatter rights or those of a landowner, everything can be done under a legal framework. Contact a professional law firm today!