Riparian Rights

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Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington


Riparian Rights are quite a common piece of vocabulary within many listings and discussions, especially with the upper end market that is found along the shore of Lake Ontario. What exactly are riparian rights? It’s a term synonymous with shoreline habitation but there are some important points to keep in mind when reading about a property offering riparian rights. At its core, riparian rights refers to the allocation of rights to land (home) owners who are situated adjacent to a body of water, this can be a lake, river or any other form of water formation. Typically in the Platinum Belt and the titled municipalities, riparian rights apply to rivers and the shore of Lake Ontario. As is made obvious by its nomenclature, riparian rights are rights, not ownership. This means that even if you own a property that backs onto Lake Ontario, you do not own the water itself, however if you have riparian rights, you have exclusive use of the water and shoreline for various uses.

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Riparian Rights vs Simply Waterfront


Typically riparian rights applied to the shorelines of Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington allow the owners exclusive access in private form to Lake Ontario, access via boat and the ability to erect structures to house marine vehicles and simplify the overall water access process. Having riparian rights requires the property to actually sit against the shores of Lake Ontario. Although many of the luxury properties are considered “waterfront”, they do not actually abut the lake, therefore making the possibility of riparian right ownership impossible. This concept of having lake views from your property but not having direct private access to the lake is quite common among the Platinum Belt municipalities. This is due to the city/town governing bodies wanting to retain public space for all people to enjoy the nature offered in these locales. Therefore having actual riparian rights places you within a very exclusive selection of home owners and in turn increases the value of the property given the rare nature. As shown in the aerial image provided, the homes that have a white space between the body of water and the actual property have lake views but no riparian rights or even direct waterfront access. In this case there is a park between the home and water. This is a common setup, but as exemplified by this image, properties like this are nestled between properties with actual riparian rights (green properties on image). Many home owners along the lake have opted to construct docks or other methods of connecting their marine enjoyment with the convenience and privacy of their backyard.

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The Numbers


Within Burlington there are about 157 properties on the lake, in Oakville there are approximately 433 waterfront properties. This number will fluctuate as certain lands are severed or combined. However, out of this number, not all have riparian rights. In the exclusive South East Oakville neighbourhood, there are only about 155 waterfront properties, with even a fewer number offering riparian rights. This means that having riparian rights is definitely a point of increased value, opportunity and overall positivity in land use. A tangent that is also affected is in regards to pools, which are quite common in the luxury home market. In accordance with by-laws, if your property does not directly form a boundary with water and adjacent private land, you need to close off access to your pool (typically via a fence). This is due to safety reasons. Therefore if you have a home that is directly on the water, it allows for the construction of a true infinity pool that seems to be a growing trend. This combined with riparian rights gives the owner complete control over both the use of the land and water within their segment along the lake and a higher sense of privacy. With all these combined outcomes of having riparian land, it is extremely important that you are aware of the presence of these rights when purchasing a lakeside property. This article should shed some basic light as to what riparian rights are, how they affect the Platinum Belt home market and essentially what it means.

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