Possession: still sometimes 9/10 of the law


FencesAs I have discussed before, nearly all properties in Ontario are in the Land Titles system. Under that system, if you try to claim property from your neighbour, you are barred. However, there is an exception: if you reached the threshold for a claim, which is either ten or 20 years, before the date that it was converted to Land Titles.

For example, let’s say you have a fence that runs alongside your property. It has been in the same place for 30 years, and that can be proven back 30 years. You have always assumed that your property goes right up to the fence. Your property was converted into land titles twelve years ago. One day, your neighbour decides to get a new survey done. This survey shows that your land actually stops about a foot before the fence, and that you have been accidentally using that extra foot all along. Your neighbour then sues you to get the extra foot for themselves.

Because you reached the statutory number of years before the date that it was converted to Land Titles (10 in this case), you actually can claim adverse possession. If, instead, you could only prove that the fence had been there for 7 years before it went into Land Titles, you could not claim adverse possession because the clock stops the moment it is converted.

Land Titles stops a lot of squatter’s rights, but some are still out there.