While most Canadians don’t have to worry about the courts potentially giving their land away to squatters, Albertans and Nova Scotians aren’t so lucky. A law based on British Common Law allows Albertans who have used someone else’s land for 10 or more years to take legal possession of that land without the consent of the original legal landowner.
What Does This Means?
What it comes down to is that if a neighbour or unknown person has been on and using your land for 10 or more years, they may be able to take the legal landowner to court in order take possession of that land. Often the usurper accidently takes possession of some of their neighbour’s land. A fence may be built in the wrong spot or a building sticks out a little far. However, whether the adverse possession is by accident or on purpose, a landowner can find themselves in real danger of having to hand over land they legally purchased and have paid taxes on for decades.
A Real Life Example.
To Albertans who are shaking their heads thinking the very idea of someone taking your land is absolute insanity, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, the Alberta courts continue to uphold this archaic law. Bob Woodward purchased a parcel of land in 1999. However, his neighbour Bill Reeder had been farming part of the land Woodward purchased for 30 years already. Woodward wanted to sort out the land dispute with his neighbour, but allowed Reeder to continue using the 10 acres of land in the meantime. Of course, Albertan farmers don’t have a lot of downtime, and the dispute was never sorted out. Ten years later, the government came through to improve a road that had been treated as the de facto border between the neighbours, but actually ran on Woodward’s land. After the road was improved, Reeder claimed that all the land north of road was his — including the 10 acres of land that was part of the parcel Woodward had bought in 1999. The farmers went to court over the dispute, and Reeder became the legal landowner of what had been Woodward’s property.
What Can You Do?
This year a legislative committee unanimously recommended that the law be revised to abolish adverse possession or so called squatter’s rights. However, the NDP government has yet to move forward the Wildrose’s motion. Regardless of whether you’re for or against this law, you can contact your MLA by phone or letter to tell them how you feel about adverse possession and ask them to act accordingly.
Many Albertans feel that adverse possession is an archaic law that should be struck from the books. But in the meantime, it’s important for farmers to know how the law works. Albertans are a generous people who believe in community and the common good. It’s not uncommon to hear of Alberta farmers helping their neighbours out by letting them to use a portion of their land. However, these farmers need to know that doing so could lead to adverse court decisions.
Buying or selling Alberta farm land? The experts at Hansen Land Co. have the knowledge and expertise you need to make the best decision. Contact Hansen Land Co. today.