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In-law Suites: What Are They and What You Need to Know

Recently a few clients have asked me to explain certain concepts and terms that appear on our Land Title documents. This article is a good introduction to our Land Titles system in Alberta:


The land registration system used in Alberta is based on the Torrens System of land registration and operates under the legislative authority of the Land Titles Act. Under this system, the Government
has custody of all original titles, documents and plans and has the legal responsibility for the validity and security of all registered land title information. The Government guarantees the accuracy of the title through the internal application and enforcement of laws derived from a multitude of statutes and court decisions.

You may see some of the following terms on a Land Title in Alberta:

Fee Simple – Only the Crown can own land absolutely. The greatest interest an individual can have in land is known as an Estate in Fee Simple. This interest is subject only to the restrictions that the Government may place on the property.

Freehold – land that is not owned by the Crown.

Leasehold – an interest where ownership is granted by a Lessor to a Lessee for a specific period only.

Life Estate – an ownership interest granted to an individual only for the duration of that person’s lifetime.

Joint Tenant – ownership by right of survivorship. If one joint owner dies their interest is transferred to the surviving joint tenant automatically, without probate. This is the usual way married couples are registered on title.

Tenant-in-Common – when an owner as tenant-in-common dies, their interest is transferred to their own estate, not to the other tenant(s)-in-common. This interest is called an undivided interest, and can be expressed as any fraction in relation to the other owners (ex. an undivided ½ interest). If Joint Tenancy is not specified on a Land Title registration, a tenancy-in-common is assumed.

Excepting Thereout All Mines And Minerals
 – mineral rights are normally owned by the Crown.

You may see one or more of the following Encumbrances (a charge on land) on a Land Title. Some encumbrances have to be cleared by the owner on transfer of the property, and other charges remain on the title.

Caveat – a notice that a third party is claiming an interest in the land.

Easement – a right given by one person to another in relation to the land. For example, a right-of-way across the property.

Judgement – an Order of the Court

Lis Pendens – a notice of a pending court action.

Mortgage – the owner pledges the land as security to a lender.

Restrictive Covenant – a restriction on the use of land for the benefit of other properties. For example, a community restriction on the height of buildings, or permissible types of roofing.

Writ of Enforcement – a charge registered by an enforcement creditor against the owner debtor.