Land Titles vs. Land Registry


A few weeks ago, I blogged about adverse possession. Adverse possession is only possible in one type of land ownership: the Land Registry system. In Ontario, parts of the province, particularly in the north, have always been in the Land Titles system, while the majority of the rest of Ontario has been in the Land Registry System.

The Land Registry system in Ontario dates back to the late 1700s, and further back to the old English system. Properties were registered based on their descriptions in chains (66 feet) and links (100 links in a chain). Each concession lot would be 100 chains from front to back, with 20 chains of frontage to the main road. Properties were patented and deposited at the local Land Registry Office, and title was passed from one person to another in accordance with the description originally patented. Each county in Ontario was given a Land Registry Office to deal with its own properties. Specific forms were prescribed for registering transfers and mortgages, but a wide variety of documents could be registered. Certain actions, such as adverse possession or owning property in trust for another person, are permitted under the Registry System. In terms of real estate law, in order to certify title, we must search back 40 years to ensure that there are no title issues.

The Land Titles system has been in place in some parts of Ontario 1875, and has been gradually introduced to the rest of Ontario over the past 20 years. Under the Land Titles system, title does not need to be searched back 40 years; anything earlier than the current owner is protected against by the Land Titles system. This is part of the reason why adverse possession cannot occur under the Land Titles system. There are also far more stringent rules about which documents can be registered and what format they must take in order to combat against fraud. For example, property can no longer be registered in trust for another person.

Nearly all Ontario properties have now been converted into the Land Titles system, with the intention that all properties will some day be part of the Land Titles system.