How to Make an Adverse Possession Claim in Nova Scotia

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When you make an Adverse Possession Claim that means you are saying that you believe you should now be the legal owner of a particular piece of land, replacing the person whose name is currently on the deed.

The first step is determining whether you meet all the requirements. In general, you must have possessed the land for a period of 20 years in a manner that is open, continuous, notorious, adverse, and exclusive. For more details on this criteria read our blog “Squatters Rights and Adverse Possession”. If you believe you meet all theses criteria then you are in a position to make a claim.

The first step is to contact the legal owner of the land you have been using. If you do not know who owns the land you must contact the Registry of Deeds or a lawyer who can find this information for you. In many cases when contacted by someone with a claim the legal owner will make a deal to sell the land in question to the squatter. Often it is beneficial to have a lawyer assist you with this negation process as the lawyer can help the legal owner understand the merits of your claim.

If the legal owner is not interested in making a deal with you then you must make a court application. To support your court application, you will require evidence. This evidence is usually in the form of an affidavit. (an affidavit is a sworn written statement). You would want an affidavit from anyone who can support your use of the land over the past 20 years. This usually includes yourself and any previous land owners if you haven’t used the land yourself for the full 20 years. You will also want affidavits from unbiased neighbors who do not have an interest in the land, this could be friends who witnessed your use of the property, maybe delivery people.

The affidavits should include facts detailing your use of the property. It can include pictures showing your use of the land and should include a survey or map where you clearly outline which portion of the land you have used. In an adverse possession claim you do not get title to the full lot, you just get the portion you have used. The more specific your details are the more credible the affidavits are.

The affidavits are then submitted to the court along with the application. The other side, the legal owner of the land, will have the opportunity to submit their own affidavits supporting their use of the land. If a settlement or deal cannot be reached the application will be heard before a judge. In many cases, the people who swore the affidavits will be called to testify, meaning they will explain under oath the details they included in their affidavit.

The judge will consider the specific facts of the case along with the case law from previous Nova Scotia cases and determine in law who is the rightful owner of the land.

Such an application can be very nuanced and once the judge had made a decision it is generally final. We strongly recommend you get legal advice before proceeding with an adverse possession or squatters rights application on your own.

If you have any questions about making an adverse possession claim, we'd be happy to help.  You can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.

Dianna M. Rievaj, LLB MBA, Founding Lawyer

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Nothing contained on this blog is legal advice or constitutes a legal opinion. While it is our goal to provide information which is current, legislative changes and court decisions, among other matters, may result in some information no longer being current or accurate. You should consult a lawyer before relying on any information. The views expressed herein by individual contributing lawyers posting entries to the blog are solely those of the authors and should not necessarily be attributed to or considered representative of the firm of Highlander Law Group Lawyers