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How is Land "Owned" in Canada?

Blog by Robert McLean | January 7th, 2020

I was speaking with a Real Estate client in Chilliwack the other day and he mentioned how, in his opinion, because he was the "owner" of his land, he could do whatever he wanted on it.

Although I didn't try to correct him, I was inspired to write this brief post about land ownership.

How is land owned in Canada?

Typically, when we talk about ownership of an item, we are speaking in terms of control over that item.  The owner controls the item's use and also has the ability to transfer that item to someone else if he or she wishes.

When we are discussing land ownership in Canada, in the strictest legal sense, the Crown (ie. the federal and provincial governments) is the only owner of land.  Through land use zoning and building codes, the Crown decides how the land is to be used and by whom.

The Crown then grants certain rights to individuals such as you and I to use the land.  Typically this will be in the form of a fee simple interest.

A fee simple Interest in land, is equivalent in many ways to absolute ownership.  It is the greatest bundle of rights that an individual can hold in land and is only subject to:

  • The Crown's right of expropriation (the Crown can "evict" anyone from land if it chooses
  • The Crown's right of tax sale
  • The Crown's land use and building regulations
  • Other individuals' common law rights

Fee simple interests in land typicall last indefinately and the holder of the fee simple interest can transfer his or her interest to other individuals.  This can be through the sale of the land or various other transfers such as leases or easements.

So, do we really own our land in Canda?  Not technically but when we hold a fee simple interest in the land, other than the Crown's rights, we do...sort of

If you any questions about buying or selling a fee simple interest (Real Estate) in Langley, Abbotsford or Chilliwack, feel free to contact me directly.  I'm here to help.

Robert McLean