City In­former

Can Van­cou­verites claim squat­ter’s rights?

Vancouver Magazine - - News - BY Stacey Mclach­lan IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY By­ron Eggen­schwiler Got a ques­tion for City In­former? stacey.mclach­[email protected]­

« Ï Ïª Ø© from my classy-ass tone, oŒshore bil­lion­aires are the pri­mary de­mo­graphic for this col­umn (“Write what you know!” they said). So, dear read­ers, I know you’ve all ex­pe­ri­enced this age-old prob­lem: you’ve got a cozy lit­tle 35-bed­room in­vest­ment prop­erty in Shaugh­nessy but no one around to dust the chan­de­liers! And there are a lot of them (one for each bed­room and also one above the toi­let, be­cause you’re not a rube).

The thing is, here in Van­cou­ver, we have a lot of peo­ple who would be re­ally happy to live in­side your mul­ti­mil­lion­dol­lar cobweb-‘lled man­sion in­stead of, say, out­side—but there’s al­ways that loom­ing fear: what if they get too cozy and in­voke Squat­ter’s Rights?

Squat­ter’s Rights: it’s a phrase we’re all fa­mil­iar with, not just be­cause “squat” is fun to say but be­cause it’s a law that brings play­ground-level con­cepts like “‘nders keep­ers” and “losers weep­ers” into the harsh light of a court­room. In some parts of the world, it takes less time to ac­quire prop­erty via squat­ting than it does to get a Satur­day-night reser­va­tion at Savio Volpe—in Cal­i­for­nia, a house can be yours in just ‘ve years. But here in B.C., it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for some­one to squat their way up the prop­erty lad­der, even though that does sound like a great Van­cou­ver­speci‘c glute ex­er­cise (Cross­fit gyms, take note). Ac­cord­ing to sec­tion 28 of the Bri­tish Columbia Lim­i­ta­tions Act, some­one can only ac­quire land rights by “ad­verse pos­ses­sion” if they set­tled in be­fore July 1, 1975. And even if they have been there since then, they’ll need to prove they oc­cu­pied the land for 20 to 60 years prior to that, con­tin­u­ously and ex­clu­sively in an “open, no­to­ri­ous and con­tin­u­ous man­ner” (e.g. yelling, “Ooh, look at meeee! I live in a hou­u­u­use!” each morn­ing for their neigh­bours to hear, ex­actly like a con‘dent, nor­mal home­owner does).

Of course, the fact that squat­ting is an un­likely path to prop­erty own­er­ship hasn’t stopped peo­ple from try­ing, many in the name of hous­ing ac­tivism, like the iconic three-month squat at Wood­ward’s in 2002 that led to the in­cor­po­ra­tion of so­cial hous­ing into the re­de­vel­op­ment, or the lessi­conic 24-hour Grand­view Squat in 2016 that led to…noth­ing. But to scoop up prop­erty from un­der the nose of us Rich Un­cle Pen­ny­bags types, any po­ten­tial claims would’ve had to be ini­ti­ated be­tween 1915 and 1955—so if the threat of squat­ting is caus­ing you to lose sleep in your caviar-stuŒed bed, please stop read­ing now and go check your base­ment for lib­er­tar­ian 102-year-olds who have just been wait­ing to pounce.

In B.C., it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for some­one to squat their way up the prop­erty lad­der.

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