Who Owns a Waterfront Property Shoreline

Cottage country may be calling you, but your waterfront property rights could belong to others.

Before you test the waters by buying a cottage in Ontario, ask your real estate lawyer about your riparian rights. 

How you use, enjoy, or even walk on the waters could be up in the air.

Quick Read

Is shoreline private property?

When is shoreline public property?

Who owns beachfront property?

Where to put your cottage

Legal definition of waterfront property.

Private boat in a shoreline

Private or Public — Who Owns Your Shoreline? 

To be honest, your waterfront property rights are pretty well set in stone. The Province of Ontario owns the land under most waterfront through the Beds of Navigable Waters Act, RSO 1990, c B4. Read the Act

So who owns beachfront property? Usually the Crown. Even if you think you have a private shore because you own a low water mark, the Province may hold a legal interest in the shore road allowance. That’s the 20 metres between your land and the water.

Your Riparian Rights in Ontario

That said, you do have riparian rights to water that directly abuts (adjoins) your waterfront property. Those rights affect the flow, drainage, access, use, and quality of water from rivers, lakeshores, or any body of water. 

You can:

  • draw underground water to drink or for residential purposes
  • use navigable waters, even privately owned, to travel from one public waterway to another –  as long as you don’t stop midstream and trespass on private land
  • use non-navigable water, like brooks or streams on your property, any way you want, provided you don’t violate local bylaws or interfere with other landowners’ enjoyment. 

Common Canadian real estate law questions for waterfront property sellers.

Who Owns the Land Around a Lake

In fact, the only time a waterfront property is private is when it is surrounded solely by a landowner’s property. For example, if you create a manmade lake or pond, or a  natural lake is landlocked by your property. (The Province still owns your natural lake, but reaching it would be trespassing.) Here’s where to find the cheapest waterfront property in Ontario

Mortgage tips when you look for cottages for sale (Ontario). 

So Where Should You Put a Waterfront Property? 

Plan to set that waterfront property well back from the shoreline, like 30 metres or more. Popular waterfront haunts like Haliburton County can prohibit waterfront property closer than that. What’s in your county’s shoreline preservation bylaw? 

Setbacks protect wildlife habitat and preserve native vegetation by filtering harmful substances before they enter the water. Imagine a coffee filter. Tightly knotted root systems in natural vegetation absorb carbon and phosphorus the same way. 

Bonus: fewer algae blooms and your valuable waterfront property is better protected from flooding caused by spring runoff. Stop harmful algal bloom from spoiling your vacation. 

Hiring a real estate lawyer

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Seal waterfront property transactions quickly and conveniently when you use an Axess Law real estate lawyer. Our real estate lawyers charge less than traditional law firms because you get only the legal services you absolutely need. 

Our licenced legal team reviews the agreement of purchase and sale for terms and conditions that may need amending. We add essential clauses to protect your financial interests and amend completion dates when your mortgage negotiations run longer than expected. Drafting the agreement of purchase and sale

We suggest what to include in your legally binding contract so you can cancel if needed by mutual consent. If you’ve signed an offer to purchase you now regret, we explain your buyer’s right to cancel and financial consequences if the seller disagrees. What happens to the deposit if the deal falls through

Your Axess Law real estate attorney searches title to property for construction liens or financial claims that could block a legal transfer.  Add a spouse or family member to title now or later. Make property title transfers (Ontario only). 

Discharge existing mortgages and get new mortgage documents witnessed by a professional real estate lawyer. Axess Law liaises with your mortgage lender to ensure mortgage papers are witnessed, signed, and delivered on time. Discharge mortgages

Find Toronto real estate lawyers. 

Virtual Legal Assistance 7 Days a Week

Video conference online anywhere in Ontario. Use any compatible home computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device to connect with an Axess Law virtual real estate lawyer. We use secure, confidential video conferencing software to witness your signature, then forward a final copy for your records. 

Using a virtual real estate lawyer

Affordable Real Estate Lawyers, Anywhere You Are 

Access lawyers for less in the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or anywhere in Ontario  when you buy, sell, or transfer property. Axess Law’s flat fee real estate lawyers are affordable, and our rates are all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. Your final invoice includes no surprises or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it. 

Hire a real estate lawyer near me. 

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