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Before You Build a Dock – Check You Title! – Written by Zachery Thiffault

Simcoe County and Muskoka residents are blessed to live in the heart of Ontario cottage country. As the Victoria Day long-weekend arrives, so beings Cottage Season 2019. As any land owner knows, buying property requires careful consideration and attention to a property’s boundaries. The same considerations apply when buying a cottage or beachfront property.

When contemplating buying a waterfront cottage, a wise buyer should consider the Beds of Navigable Waters Act. This Act governs waterbed ownership in Ontario, determining whether a waterbeds title belongs to a boarding land owner, or the Government. Who has title to a waterbed can have unrealized consequences for a potential owner.

Without express conveyance of the waterbed from the Ministry of Natural Resources, title to the waterbed does not pass with the bordering land. This can have serious implications for a cottage owner, as without title to the waterbed property owners cannot build on the waterbed. This impedes installing docks or building boathouses. In fact, building on a waterbed which you do not have title too, can result in the Ministry of Natural Resources ordering any construction on the waterbed to cease, or remove/dismantle any existing structure.

The potential buyer of beachfront property should also consider that while a property may boarder a beach, many beachfront properties do not include title to the beach itself. While no law definitively establishes ownership of beaches, there is typically a 66-foot allowance along a lake or bay’s shoreline, and title to this “shoreline allowance” is vested in the local municipality. Consequently, this shoreline allowance enables the general public the right to walk, run, or sunbath, on the beachfront.

Knowledge about a property you’re purchasing can save time and frustration. If you or someone you know is purchasing  waterfront property contact our Elizabeth Street office by phone at 705-526-3791 for a quote or speak directly to one of our lawyers.

Happy Victoria Day Weekend from the lawyers and staff of Ferguson Deacon Taws LLP!

***Zachery Thiffault is going into his third year in the University of Ottawa’s Common Law Section. He joined our firm earlier this year for a brief internship and has continued with our firm as a summer student.

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