“Squatters rights,” is a casual term for what Canadian realty law calls Adverse Possession. Adverse possession occurs when someone tries to take control of a piece of land that is owned by someone else, thereby excluding the true owner from the property.
For example, somebody moves into a home that is not theirs, or they put a fence around a portion of land that isn’t theirs. When dealing with adverse possession you must keep in mind how the land is registered to begin with – either via Land Titles System or the more antiquated Registry System. Province keeps track of their land and territory in different ways, however under the Land Titles System (which we have in Ontario), Adverse Possession is not possible or legal -- someone can try to take over a house that is vacant, but they can't take control or ownership over it legally just by moving themselves in, no matter how hard they try.
However, under the Registry System is it possible to obtain adverse possession after a certain amount of time among many other things as set out by that province's property laws. The terms by which someone can take adverse possession over a property are very complicated, but in general terms you must prove:
- you have possessed the land
- you intended to possess the land
- your possession of the land has been without the consent of the owner of the land
- you have possessed the land for the requisite time period
Usually the minimum requisite time period is 10 to 12 years for a squatter to be on the land, in some circumstances the time period can be significantly longer.
As always, it’s best to consult a lawyer if you are worried that someone is trying to take control of your property – and same goes for the vacant house owner. Good luck!