Squatter's rights in Ontario How does the law handle squatter's rights in Ontario (Toronto specifically)? I have heard many different version and would like to know if there is a definitive answer. I have allowed my neighbour to use a 2-foot strip of...

...my land in the back yard for 4-5 years, and now he is telling me that he actually owns it.

 

Squatter's rights is more formally known as adverse possession, and refer to the ability to acquire ownership of another's land as a result of long-term use. The law of adverse possession in Ontario is as follows:

Adverse possession of a portion of another's land can be claimed when the claimant can prove uninterrupted use of that land for a minimum of ten consecutive years prior to that property's conversion to the Land Titles system.

Let's break that down. For the past few decades the Ontario government has been "moving" parcels of land from the old Land Registry System to the new Land Titles System. As of today all but a few thousand properties are in Land Titles, and most of those are odd pieces of land in rural areas of the province. Every property has a date on which it was converted. That is the date that determines the cut-off for eligibility for adverse possession.

A claimant, therefore, must prove they were using the land they are claiming ownership of for ten consecutive years prior to that conversion date. So, if your property was converted to Land Titles on March 3, 1998 then any claim of adverse possession (or squatter's rights) against a portion of your land would have to be based on uninterrupted use from at least March 3, 1988.

There are nuances and complexities of the law that you should discuss with your lawyer, but hopefully this gives you a basic understanding of how adverse possession - or squatter's rights - works.

The Protect Your Boundaries Team