Squatters Rights

Getting Rich by occupying other people’s property

This ancient remedy was helpful in resolving disputes in the latter part of the Middle Ages. If one farmer continued to cultivate a piece of land at the back of his farm and the farmer’s neighbor did not object, then after 7 years, he owned the land. At the time of course, it was not worth much.


What is the purpose of squatter rights?

The purpose of squatter rights was to regularize the boundaries of the properties. The added value of the cultivation of the property over a period of years was considered to be an investment and an improvement of the land. Be careful of your neighbors taking over your land, it could cost you a lot of money and possibly losing your ownership. Most of us think that squatter rights were abolished many years ago. This is true to some degree.

In Canada, we have two systems to register the ownership of land. Under the land title system, squatter rights were abolished. However, under the registry system, these rights have been preserved and accorded a rather exalted status.

What happens to your land?

1. Loss of your land.

2. Liability issue.

Both hurdles have serious consequences due to the laws of the land. Liability: if somebody gets hurts on the land you own, it can affect your insurance rate and you can be held liable even though somebody else has the rights to use your land. The squatter rights are a big issue when thy neighbour has claim acquire rights. It has the effect of a double-edge sword, like losses to you. First, you lose part of your property. Secondly, it reduces the value of your property.

How do you protect yourself from Squatter’s?

As shrewd professional real estate investors, you only have one choice, which is to sign an agreement. The agreement will waive any claim to the land and indemnify you from any lawsuits or liabilities. When you have an agreement signed, sealed and delivered, you can then consider yourself to be safe to a certain degree. There is an alternative choice to tell your neighbor or occupant to get off your land and bite the bullet.

What is the time period to implement Squatter’s rights?

In accordance with the old common law rules, an individual who occupies a piece of property for a period of seven years of more may be declared to be the owner. In England, this was later changed by legislation to 12 years. In Ontario, it is 10 years. Other common law jurisdictions use other time periods but the basic rules are the same.

Do you need to occupy the land for Squatter’s rights?

The occupation of the land must be open; it cannot be a secret or surreptitious in any way. It must be peaceable that no one is trying to throw you off the property, either physically or through the court. It must be continuous; otherwise the time period starts all over again. It does not mean that you can never leave the property. You may do so, so long that you leave enough of your belongs, you are still considered to be there.

Squatters rights In US

In the United States, squatting laws vary from state to state and city to city. For the most part, it is rarely tolerated to any degree for long, particularly in cities.
In common law, through the legally recognized concept of adverse possession, a squatter can become a bona fide owner of property without compensation to the owner. Adverse possession is the process by which one acquires the title to a piece of land by occupying it for the number of years necessary, dictated differently by each state.

A necessary component of this transfer of ownership requires that the landowner is aware of the land occupation and does nothing to put an end to it. If the land use by the new occupant goes unchecked for the said number of years, the new occupant can claim legal rights to the title of the land. The occupant must show that the “possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, under cover of claim or right, and continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period.


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Squatter’s Rights

As the legal owner of property, you have the right to keep people from cutting across it or to stop people from just using it and taking it away from you, right?  Well, not exactly.  In certain limited circumstances, a person can lose control of their own property, or pieces of it, to people who are not owners of the property.  These situations fall into three categories:

  • • Easements (or sometimes known as rights-of-way);
    • Adverse possession (or sometimes called “squatters’ rights”); and
    • Restrictive covenants.

An easement can be written permission to go across a piece of land.  This is used by the cable companies, telephone companies or gas companies who run cables and pipes under and over land.  Most property is subject to that type of easement, and they are necessary to make modern neighbourhoods work with all the conveniences.  Unwritten easements arise because someone makes use of a person’s property without their permission for a long time, and the owner of the property doesn’t stop them.  Hikers or snowmobilers may cut across the back of farm property for years, or people may cut a path across a vacant lot to get from their home to a shopping centre.  Homeowners often cross each other’s driveways or properties.  Crossing a neighbour’s land is particularly common in cottage country where access to a remote lake or riverfront property is only possible by crossing over another person’s land.  If the use lasts long enough, the person cutting across the property may get a “right-of-way” over the property.  Technically, it’s not that the person cutting across the property gets the right to cross it, it’s that the owner of the property loses the right to stop them from cutting across the property.  The owner’s rights to deny access to the property are prescribed.  Hence, these are often called “prescriptive rights.”  How long does the use of the property need to continue?  It’s generally between ten and twenty years, depending on the province.  How does a homeowner or property owner stop the unwanted crossing of their property?  Lock it, put up signs or a fence prohibiting access.  Use the trespass laws and take active steps to interrupt that ten to twenty-year period.  In other words, get in the way and interrupt the period of time and the use of the property, and the easement will not arise.

Adverse possession sounds so much more civilized than “squatters’ rights,” but it means the same thing.  Through adverse possession, someone can actually take control of a piece of another person’s land.  They may, for example, put their fence around a portion of another person’s land.  It is different from an easement, which arises because someone crosses land.  Adverse possession arises because someone is actually taking control and excluding the true owner from their property.  That’s why the possession is called “adverse.” 

Adverse possession is not available everywhere in Canada and, for example, it cannot be used to obtain possession of land owned by the Crown (the government).  So forget about trying to take over a part of a provincial park or a national park simply by putting up a fence.  There are also different ways each province and territory keeps track of registering title to property in Canada.  One system is called the Land Titles System and the other is called the Registry System.  Adverse possession is not possible against land that is covered by the Land Titles System.  However, it is possible to obtain adverse possession against land that is registered under the Registry System.  You need to check with a lawyer in your province if you are worried that someone is trying to take control of your property.

Restrictive covenants are restrictions on the use or ownership of property, and they are registered on the title.  A person may buy property and agree to abide by these restrictive terms.  Your lawyer will discover them at the time of purchase when searching title to the property on your behalf.  The lawyer may report to you that you can only paint your house a certain colour scheme to blend with the rest of the neighbourhood.  This is a fairly modest and typical restrictive covenant.  However, long ago some restrictive covenants dictated who, in terms of race or religion, could buy, or not buy, property in communities.  It is not that long ago that we saw restrictive covenants that prohibited “Negroes” or “Jews” or “Turks” from purchasing property in particular neighbourhoods.  The courts decided that these and other vile restrictions on ownership of property were contrary to Canadian public policy and struck them down, but lawyers still see these covenants when they search title.  They’re an ugly reminder of the past, but they’re unenforceable.

The bottom line is that your control of your land is not to be taken for granted.  Protect it from unwanted easements and, possibly, adverse possession.  Restrictive covenants may surface during an attempt to buy property, and it is up to you to decide whether you want to accept them. 

credit: http://www.mycanadianrealestatelaw.com/rightsofway.html

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