Anyone entering private property without legal authority or the permission of the occupier may be found guilty of an offence under the Trespass to Property Act. The burden of proof that permission was given is on the accused. “Occupier” means anyone in legal possession of land; legal owner or tenant. Places subject to the Act include land, water and buildings, including portable structures.
The Trespass to Property Act, and its companion, the Occupiers’ Liability Act, were enacted in 1980 to protect the rights of occupiers, while allowing them to control activities on their property.
Occupiers can use signs to show which activities they wish to allow. When choosing signs, be sure that the sign reflects your true wishes. Signs prohibiting one activity only refer to that activity; not to any other unnamed activities. For example, a “No Fishing” sign only prohibits fishing; not hiking or hunting. To prohibit all activities, use a “No Trespassing” sign. The use of signs does not affect your right to subsequently give individuals permission to use your land.
Signs used to prohibit or restrict entry to property must conform to the Act. They can show your wishes through symbols or words. All signs must be clearly visible in daylight and placed at every normal point of access to the property.
Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act
The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 protects Ontario farms, farmers and their families, agri-food employees, livestock, and the safety of the food system from the risks associated with trespass and unauthorized interactions with farm animals. Anyone entering an animal protection zone must have prior consent which was not obtained using duress or under false pretenses; consent to be on the property is not implied. An animal protection zone is defined as:
- An enclosure for farm animals, whether or not it is marked as an animal protection zone,
- An area that meets prescribed requirements and is marked as an animal protection zone by the owner or occupier using signs in accordance with the regulations,
- An area prescribed by the regulations as an animal protection zone for the purposes of this Act.
The Act also prohibits people from interfering or interaction with farm animals being transported by a motor vehicle without the prior consent of the driver.
Offences under the Act carry penalties up to $15,000 for the first offences, and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences. Persons found guilty of an offence can be held responsible, and may receive a restitution order for any injury, losses, or damages occurred as a result of the contravention. A two-year limitation period exists for the commencement of proceedings for an offence.
For more information, read OFA’s Trespass and Occupiers’ Liability fact sheet.