What is adverse possession?

Definition of Adverse Possession

Adverse possession, otherwise known as “squatter’s rights,” is when one party—who is not the property owner—takes possession or ownership of the land without the current owner’s approval. The legal ownership claim for the property is made through the individual’s history of occupying the home or land without the owner’s permission.

Why is this term important?

Although the original property owner will hold claim to recover the property from the "squatter," the court's will sometimes consider the ruling if the property owner has not tried to reclaim the land for an extended amount of time. If this is the case, the individual who is exercising adverse possession will become the new property owner. If the property owner and the individual claiming adverse possession choose not to go through the courts to finalize the decision — the current owner and "squatter" may enter an agreement to transfer the land title to the other through a purchase fee.

Examples of term

Say that in the year 1990 you bought a five-acre piece of land. In 1995 a young family came in to live on one acre of your land and built their own property to live in. They have lived there since and you, the current landowner, have chosen not to reclaim the land over the past 20 years.

Although you are the current owner of the land at the province Land Titles Office, you and the young family entered into an agreement back in 2010 to transfer the portion of the property occupied by the family in which a sale was made to register this piece of land to them. This would be considered one form of adverse possession.