Property Issues: Beware of your neighbours

March 21st, 2016

How to protect your title.

CÉCILE DEFORGES, Lawyer | Montréal

As a property owner, it is very important that you be vigilant with respect to your neighbours’ actions, which could undermine your title. In August 2015, the Court of Appeal reiterated this principle very eloquently in Ostiguy c. Allie.

In 2011, the plaintiffs, Alain Ostiguy and Valérie Savard (the “Ostiguys”) purchased a secondary residence and four adjacent parking spaces near the Bromont ski resort. Shortly after moving, they noticed that the neighbor, Hélène Allie (“Allie”), the defendant, was routinely using two of the four parking spaces they had just purchased. The Ostiguys filed injunction proceedings to enforce their ownership rights.

However, the Court of Appeal concluded that Allie had validly acquired ownership of the two parking spaces by acquisitive prescription, i.e., due to the fact that she had had possession of the spaces for more than ten years, continuously, peacefully and unequivocally. In short, Allie had conducted herself as the owner of the parking spaces for more than ten years. Consequently, although the Ostiguys had duly published their title deed at the land register and notwithstanding the fact that they were unaware of Allie’s continuous usage of the spaces for ten years at the time of their purchase, they found themselves dispossessed of part of their property.

This decision confirms the importance of conducting yourself like the owner of the property, on a regular basis, to avoid losing any of our rights. For instance :

  • mowing the grass, planting shrubs and plants, installing a bench at the same space every summer;

  • exchanging correspondence with your neighbours informing them that their actions are only being tolerated, and reminding them that you own the land in question; and

  • having the boundaries of the property marked, or at least placing sufficient indicators to establish where the dividing line is.

2015 QCCA 1368. For a summary and commentary on this decision, see: Cécile Deforges, "Commentaire sur la décision Ostiguy c. Allie – L’inscription au registre foncier d’un titre de propriété ne constitue pas un obstacle à l’acquisition de l’immeuble par prescription," Repères, December 2015, EYB2015REP1823.