Getting Back To Cottage Time … But Is It My Shoreline?

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Article2024 | 03 | 21

Getting Back To Cottage Time … But Is It My Shoreline?

Cottage shoreline with boats and a floating dock

Turning the clocks forward is a signal that whether or not Mother Nature complies, many Manitobans are thinking about their upcoming ritual of fleeing the urban jungle and heading east to their cottage in beautiful Northwestern Ontario.

While the licensed Ontario lawyers (Kevin Nenka & Norm Snyder) of Taylor McCaffrey are always there to service any potential sale, purchase, or financing of the like in all of Ontario, there are particular common concerns that arise more often with cottage properties in Northwestern Ontario as most are situated on what is legally defined as “unincorporated territory” and commonly referred to as “unorganized land” for which we can advise upon with the assistance of and in coordination with a licensed Ontario surveyor as needed and required.

A common issue is the ownership of the shoreline.  Traditionally when properties were created, land was set aside for the Crown (i.e. ungranted by the Crown) for what is known as a shoreline reserve or a road allowance which is a 66 feet (one chain) strip of land from the high-water mark inwards.  As the Crown no longer desires to retain the land to provide public areas or to manage shoreline development it can be bought by the adjacent property owner at the greater of an administration fee or fair market value pursuant to the Public Lands Act.  Over time, the amount of shoreline reserve or road allowance in front of cottages has been diminishing.  As a ballpark, about fifty percent of all cottage owners do not have ownership of their shoreline but as you take a nice boat ride around the Lake of the Woods for example, more than 50 percent of cottages have either a part of their cottage or structures and/or residences on the adjacent shoreline reserve or road allowance whether they know it or not.  There are pros and cons to owning the shoreline reserve or road allowance in front of your cottage, whether it may be a necessity or to avoid issues with future transfers, mortgages, insurance claims or simply a desire, cost, and/or privacy reason.

Another issue is a severance of cottage land (i.e. a one lot subdivision) where you have to apply for consent to separate a piece of land to form a new lot or parcel of land.  Severances commonly arise under these circumstances (in no particular order or prevalence):

  1. Where there are two cottages on a lot (for example, two siblings each owning a separate one or a house with a guest house). A severance would have to be applied for and approved in order to sell the severed lot.
  2. There is a road access issue or an encroachment that has to be dealt with vis-a-vis an abutting property owner, whether it is a buy or sell.

Severances will trigger the typical tax consequences of a disposition of land.

The above are just some of the topics or areas that Taylor McCaffrey can help you with the little piece of paradise you already own, wish to own, or wish to sell.


DISCLAIMER: This article is presented for informational purposes only. The views expressed are solely the author(s)’ and should not be attributed to any other party, including Taylor McCaffrey LLP. While care is taken to ensure accuracy, before relying upon the information in this article you should seek and be guided by legal advice based on your specific circumstances. The information in this article does not constitute legal advice or solicitation and does not create a solicitor-client relationship. Any unsolicited information sent to the author(s) cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

If you would like legal advice, kindly contact the author(s) directly or the firm's Chief Operating Officer at, or 204.988.0356.

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About the Author
Kevin Nenka
Kevin Nenka