Cottage Q&A: Can you post ‘No Trespassing’ signs?

A No Trespassing sign posted in weedy grass By ICKEDA/Shutterstock

I’m the president of a property owners’ association and we are looking at posting two signs at the entrance to our private roads. (The municipality does not maintain our roads. They’re maintained by the association dues we collect annually from each property owner.) In the last couple of years, we have noticed more activity on our roads by individuals who are not members of our association. More specifically ATV activity and people using the roads to access our lake. Does the association have a right to post a sign stating “Private Road No Trespassing”? Are there any ramifications in doing so and is there other wording we should consider?— M.J., Trent Lakes, Ont. 

Go ahead and post your signs. “If the road is a private road and is private property, the owners of the road have the right to post ‘No Trespassing’ or any other signage restricting access to the property,” says Jeffrey E. Streisfield of Land Law. Post as many signs as you want: “There is no restriction on the number of signs you can erect on your private property or along the roadway.”

It’s a good idea, however, to first confirm the registered owner of the private roads, says Oliver Cooper, a lawyer with McGillen Keay Cooper Law Office in Peterborough, Ont. “Are the roads included on every cottager’s property deed? Or is only one person the actual owner?” This could matter because, under the Trespass to Property Act, it’s only the person who is officially considered an “occupier” who has “legal authority to deal with the road,” says Cooper. (For advice on how to track this info down, contact your lawyer.)

But back to your question. Your wording suggestion is fine, but “I’d also include ‘No Unauthorized Motor Vehicles,’ ” says Cooper; this drives the point home for the ATV riders. And put a “10-cm, solid red circle in the middle of the sign,” he says. It’s highly visible, and everyone knows that red means stop. In fact, under the Act, a 10-cm red circle is the only thing you need to post. “As soon as you post that, you’ve ‘given notice,’ ” says Cooper. “Anyone who comes on your property uninvited is violating the Act.” 

There are no ramifications to posting the signs. But there’s also no guarantee that they’ll work. Let’s give these ATV riders and other non-association members the benefit of the doubt: maybe they don’t know the roads are private. Maybe once the signs are up, they’ll stay away. If not, you have every right to call the police—they’re breaking the law.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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