Alberta Law Reform Institute project informs passing of Bill 3 in Alberta Legislature

The Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act abolishes the law of adverse possession

Carmen Rojas - 14 December 2022

A recent project and final report from the Alberta Law Reform Institute (ALRI) in the Faculty of Law has helped pave the way for the passage of Bill 3, the Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act, in the Alberta Legislature. 

Bill 3, which passed its third reading on December 13, 2022, abolishes the law of adverse possession. This law, commonly known as “squatters rights,” made it possible for a person who has occupied someone else’s land for more than 10 years to claim ownership of that land. 

In October 2017, ALRI responded to a government request to review whether adverse possession continued to serve a valid purpose in Alberta. The project was led by legal counsel Stella Varvis, who conducted the main research and analysis with assistance from Executive Director Sandra Petersson.  

In its final report, released in April 2020, ALRI recommended the law of adverse possession be abolished in Alberta, preventing new claims from being brought in the future. 

As stated in the report, “this change would mean that a registered owner of land could recover possession at any time and would not have to act within the 10-year limitation period that currently applies.” 

ALRI arrived at this recommendation for several key reasons: land titles are maintained through the land registration system and do not deteriorate over time; owners or occupiers of land may not be aware of any issues until after 10 years; and registered title is superior to possessory title. 

In addition, the report put forward by ALRI points out that the purpose served by the law of adverse possession is often served by section 69 of the Law Property Act, which deals with lasting improvements made to wrong land and has the advantage of not allowing a deliberate trespasser to benefit from their wrong, as can be the case with adverse possession.

“We are pleased to see the Government of Alberta adopt our recommendations in the drafting of Bill 3,” says Varvis. “ALRI's recommendations were informed by extensive consultation with legal professionals, land surveyors, as well as the general public. Bill 3 brings Alberta in line with public expectations when it comes to preserving the integrity of a person’s legal title against a trespasser on their land.”

ALRI has been providing independent, comprehensive recommendations to the Government of Alberta and other agencies for over 50 years. Its mission is to improve the laws of Alberta, helping to ensure that the law and administration of justice are kept up to date and serve Albertans to the best extent possible.