Ontario: The limitation of claims for trusts over real property

Justice Doyle’s decision in Campbell v. Nicol contains a helpful summary of the limitation of claims for the imposition of a constructive trust on real property:

[71]           With respect to equitable claims, the Ontario Court of Appeal dealt with this issue in McConnell v. Huxtable, 2014 ONCA 86 (CanLII), 118 O.R. (3d) 561, where the court dealt with a claim for the remedial constructive trust over real property based on an allegation of unjust enrichment. The Court held that the applicable limitation period was the 10 year period under s. 4 of the Real Property Limitations Act.

[72]           The question for the Court was whether a claim for unjust enrichment in which the claimant asks the court to impose a constructive trust upon the respondent’s real property is an action to recover any land. The Court answered in the affirmative. The Court concluded that the constructive trust remedy for unjust enrichment as well as the purposes and contextual interpretation of the Real Property Limitations Act justified a finding that the claim fell within this category.

[73]           The Court also found that the applicant’s alternative claim for monetary compensation was also governed by the 10-year limitation, not the two-year limitation period pursuant to the Limitations Act, 2002.


[74]           The applicant issued his application six years after the date of separation. Given the decision in McConnell, the court finds that the proper limitation period for the claim in unjust enrichment is 10 years under the Real Property Limitations Act.

[75]           A claim based unjust enrichment has two remedies. The Court must first consider a monetary remedy and secondly a property remedy: see Kerr v. Baranow; Vanasse v. Seguin, 2011 SCC 10 (CanLII), [2011] 1 S.C.R. 269.

[76]           Here, the applicant did couch the remedy he was seeking as a property claim for the unjust enrichment claim. The Ontario Court of Appeal in McConnell confirmed that the limitation period for an unjust enrichment claim requesting a property remedy is 10 years. Even though a trial court will, upon finding unjust enrichment, must first determine if the unjust enrichment can first be remedied by a monetary claim as stated in Kerr and Vanasse, the McConnell case states that the claim for unjust enrichment has a limitation period of 10 years even if the alternate claim is for monetary compensation.